Monday, June 29, 2009

A Few Words for Recent Graduates

Another season of Americana has come and gone; that being the Graduation season which is met in this nation with, literally, much Pomp and Circumstance. And, like all American Institutions, this one comes with its own rituals. Namely, the invitation of prominent or not-so-prominent speakers to address one's commencement. Jon Stewart has done it; so has Stephen Colbert. Presidents, Vice Presidents, Presidents' and Vice Presidents' wives. Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's volatile Chief of Staff, delivered the commencement address at George Washington this year. One hopes he kept his remarks clean.

The gig, by all appearances, consists of standing in sunny, warm June weather in heavy robes, listening to other blowhards deliver endless speeches while smiling and applauding at the appropriate times. Then, when it's your turn, you deliver your endless, boring speech. For the effort, you're rewarded with an honorary degree.....sometimes.

I've given this a lot of thought, and I've concluded that I'm not likely to be awarded any degree - honorary or otherwise. However, I do have some hard-won wisdom that I can impart to those who are now poised to enter the "real world". So folks, wake the kids, sit them down, and let Uncle Tripster enlighten them.

1. Life isn't fair. Get over it.

2. Learn the art of compromise, but never compromise your principles. From there, it's a short leap to selling your soul. Trust me on this one.

3. Just because you have a degree doesn't mean you've stopped learning. Pursue knowledge whenever possible.

4. Consider this: every one of the world's major religions, Judaism; Christianity; Islam; Sufism; Buddhism; Shinto; Sikh; Taoism -- all have, as a basic precept of their faith, some form of "The Golden Rule". Treat others as you would have them treat you. This can hardly be a coincidence.

5. Your parents are pretty dumb right now. They'll wise up. Give them time.

6. Over the years, your perception of success will change. Right now, you're going to be chasing the dollars. There's nothing wrong with that. Save some for retirement. But many years from now, you'll realize that success isn't about the money you make as much as the lives you touch. Do the right thing. Leave this world cleaner, better, more just than you found it. And if, when you depart, just one person can say they are better for having known you, you will have succeeded.

7. One thing nobody told you: Real life is hard. Excruciatingly hard. And it doesn't get easier, so get used to it now. I don't care what job or position you get, there's always someone out there who's gonna bust your balls. So get tough. Fast.

That's all I got. Good luck.

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