Opinion » The Rant

The Rant

Pompous Circumstance — when in doubt, go back to college.



Graduation season is upon us again and colleges and universities have announced their commencement speakers. Peyton Manning spoke to the class of 2014 at the University of Virginia, which was an odd choice con-sidering where he did his college quarterbacking. Howard University awarded an honorary doctorate to Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, who now wishes to be known as "Doctor Diddy." Being a distinguished alumnus of the University of Memphis, I kept waiting for my alma mater to call, but I guess they lost my number after I surrendered my basketball season tickets. I did prepare a little something just in case, and since I hate to see inspirational words go to waste, here is the commencement address I might have given:

Congratulation, graduates. Your term of voluntary servitude has ended, and you are now free to go. Take a month and sleep as late as you damn please, but remember your new student loan contracts require you to be a server in a restaurant for at least three months. There, you'll get your first taste of reality and learn the meaning of humility. Also, you will understand, early on, the importance of tips to the people who serve you. 

Winston Churchill once famously said, "Never, never, never give up." There may have been a few more "nevers" in there, but this is the agreed upon number. I know you have all heard it said before: If you believe in yourself, don't let anything or anyone stop you from reaching your goal. Just keep believing and if you don't give up, you'll eventually get there. I believe, however, that there are times when the wiser path is to just go ahead and give up. If you're an unfunny comedian, a 39-year-old minor league pitcher, an aging lounge singer, or an unlucky stockbroker, give it up, man, or you just might sleep through life while following your dreams.

Now that everyone is majoring in broadcasting and filmmaking, we have encountered a problem. If everybody wants to be a sportscaster, a movie director, a pop star, or a reality TV personality, somebody's going to fall short of the mark. Spare yourself the years of agony pimping yourself out to under-qualified employers whose subjective judgment determines if you fail or succeed. Aim for the stars, but find something on Earth that will pay the rent. To paraphrase the great mythologist Joseph Campbell, go ahead and follow your bliss, but keep your day job. The class of 2014 will never have to worry about leaving school just to find a jobless economy waiting. In case you didn't catch the news, NASA satellite photography has revealed that large chunks of the polar ice caps have collapsed, and a United Nations expert panel has speculated that it's too late to do anything about it. Sea levels are rising at an alarming rate since polar ice sheets have melted "faster in the last 20 years than in the last 10,000." This means, goodbye Florida and the Eastern Seaboard, farewell Gulf Coast and the Jersey Shore, and the Big Apple will soon be bobbing for apples. On the bright side, the Corps of Engineers and FEMA will be hiring, as will insurance companies worldwide. Have you seen how much plumbers and electricians make these days? Damage assessors will be the new rock stars.

Try to find a career that won't stress you out. Lighten up now or get digestive problems later. The words "public servant" have become synonymous with the term "Ponzi scheme." We need people committed to the kind of public service that doesn't take bribes in the way of campaign contributions. I'm sorry, how silly of me. The Roberts Supreme Court has declared corporations as people, and money as speech. And now that political donations have been declared unlimited, a few cognitive-challenged billionaires determine who's elected to public office. So, be an activist. Don't be indifferent or passive, and don't wait for someone else to say what you're thinking. We're only one Supreme Court justice away from overturning this whole Bush legacy once and for all.

We need people to put our priorities back in order, and teaching is the most important, lowest-paid job out there. Be a teacher or else sit on a commission that raises their salaries. Wake up — not everyone can be famous, so make a difference where you are. I'd say "respect your elders," but many of your elders are undeserving of your respect, so just show a bit of deference to older people because, with any luck, you'll be one someday. In conclusion, take your time. I began college in 1965 and graduated in 1993, so should you find yourself in times of difficulty and anxiety, take one of my old sayings to heart: "When in doubt, go back to college."

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