“To the Class of 2012,” column for May 22, 2012

(Note: I’m taking this week off from writing. The following is from a graduation speech I’ve given numerous times over the years.)

To the Class of 2012:

Today, when you marched in here, you were not alone. You carried on your shoulders the hopes and dreams and love of a great many people: Your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, your teachers, coaches, neighbors and friends.

They’ve all had a hand in helping you grow up and they will always help you, if they can. But one thing will change when you leave here today: From now on, you alone will be in charge of your life. You alone will decide what to do with it.
Officially, you’re one of us now: God help you, you’re a grownup.
You can’t control all the things that will happen in your future. And you can’t change the things that happened in the past. But you can choose what you will do with those things and how you let them shape you. After today, there will be only one person to credit or blame for your life: You. You have your mother’s smile and your father’s eyes, but your life is all your own.
That is your graduation gift: Your life. I hope you like it. If it doesn’t fit, exchange it for one that does. Be the person you want to be. Live the life of your dreams. Starting now.
I’d like to offer you some tips from my grandmother. I call it “THINGS MY GRANDMOTHER SAID, OR WOULD HAVE, IF SHE’D THOUGHT OF THEM.”
1_ When you meet people, shake hands and look them in the eye and they’ll say nice things about you at your funeral. 2_ If you’re going to tell a lie, tell one that people will believe. That way, you’ll only be known as a liar and not a lying fool.
3_ Look after living things: Take care of your animals, water your garden, be kind to children and old folks.
4_ Never pretend to be what you aren’t or to know what you don’t know. People can forgive ignorance, but they never forget a phony.
5_ Be true to your faith and practice what you preach; in the eyes of God, the only thing worse than a heathen is a hypocrite.
6_ Don’t dip snuff around people who make you laugh. It’s like “don’t spit in the wind,”
but it’s more about the kind of company you keep than the kinds of things that you do.
7_ Never be rude. If you slip, apologize at once. Say it like you mean it: “I apologize for my rudeness.” The only thing worse than rude is tacky and God forbid that you ever be tacky.
8_ Avoid confrontation in the heat of anger, especially with members of your immediate family; remember that in some states, “he needed killing” is not a justifiable defense.
9_ If you have to swallow a frog, don’t look at it too long before you put it in your mouth; and if you have to swallow two frogs, go for the big one first.
10_ Never say anything behind people’s backs you don’t want to say to their faces. They’re sure to hear about it unless they’re dead, and you should never speak ill of the dead unless they’ve got it coming.
11_ Don’t start doing anything that you aren’t willing to keep doing forever. And never try to finish what shouldn’t have been started in the first place.
12_ Finally, lead an interesting life, whatever that may be. To settle for anything less would be way worse than tacky.
Perhaps you’ve been told the world is in such a mess that you and your friends can’t do much to change it. Don’t believe it.
This is your turn to shine, and shine you will. When you hear people say, “What’s this world coming to?” tell them that it is coming to you.


Speak Your Mind