I’d love the chance, but it will never happen. Probably a good thing. If I was asked, I’d chicken out and rattle on with those overused praises. Spreading sunny futures throughout the room.
But in a daydream, I get to be honest and say what I want. To say something different, maybe make someone think.
I walk to the podium after the inflated introduction, let the applause drift. I clear my throat, hoping to discern the mic level. I say an obligatory thanks and then I let them have it. I tell them what I really think.
Let’s begin by realizing that you are not the greatest generation. Few of you will likely fulfill your hopes and aspirations. The world’s problems and selfish desires will wear you down to lives of blasé survival.
You will not solve all the problems that our generation hands to you. You will vacillate between cluelessness and overwhelming fear.
Remember that you are the generation who follows the societal declaration that everybody needs a degree. So we made it easy, dumbing down the curriculum until you can’t tell the athletes from the academics.
I pause for a breath and look into the audience. Instead of crying mothers and bored fathers, I notice murmuring. Whispers that lead to stirring. Administrators confer in the back and finally some brave soul shouts my damnation. Demanding that “someone” stop this.
How quickly I go from celebrity to target, the problem.
Before I can resume my address, the president places a hand on my shoulder, pulling me back, and leans into the mic.
“Thank you, sir, for those challenging and inspiring words. I am certain your hope was to join us in honoring this class and supporting our school. We will now move forward to the ceremony of conferring the degrees for this class.”
And once the problem has been identified and blame assigned, a sense of calm is interpreted as resolution. The ceremony, and all of life, returns to status quo, thank God.
Of course, take care and do not invoke that deity’s name at an official gathering in a public institution.