FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JUNE 5, 2013 —
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to give one of those high school graduation commencement speeches. You know, where you put on a cap and gown and stand up in front of a whole graduating class and tell them what you think they need to know about life and how they should go about having a good one. But the last time I did any public speaking my daughter told me my nose twitched the whole time from being nervous, so I probably wouldn’t make much of a commencement speaker. Anyway, it’s still fun to think about what I would like to tell a gymnasium full of graduating high school seniors who weren’t allowed to leave until I was through, and I think it would go something like this:
Let me begin my remarks this evening with some long ago words from Socrates: “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners and contempt for authority. They show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents and chatter before company. They gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
Socrates’ buddy, Plato, went ever further, writing “What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders and disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”
And some guy named Hesiod, who lived about four centuries before Socrates and Plato were even born, threw up his hands in disgust and said, “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words.”
So, it would seem that for as long as there has been recorded history, old people (even wise ones) have been convinced that young people were going to screw up the world as they knew it. Yet, for better or worse, the human race is still here, so young people must be doing something right.
Okay, this is the place in my speech when I am supposed to tell you to live up to your potential, follow your bliss, and make a difference in the world. But since I assume all of you will be trying to do those things, I will skip all of that and just pass along the following specific advice:
Be kind, especially to yourself. Life is a tough go and it’s really true that in the end, only kindness matters.
Be generous, with both your time and your money. You were really blessed to be born in such a free and wealthy country and you need to give back whenever possible.
Don’t suffer fools gladly, even if they are related to you. The fools of this world are full of negative energy and eager to weigh you down and make you heavy. You need to get them out of your life as soon as possible.
For all of you guys out there who have spent much of the past four years strolling through hallways and referring to the girls you passed as bitches, whores, and worse, you might want to start knocking that off, since those young girls that you so easily disrespect are soon going to be your wives and the mothers of your children. Not to mention that you might have daughters yourself someday.
Remember that before anything really magical can happen in your life, you have to imagine it first.
Try not to spend too much time watching the news, especially Fox News. We don’t need more Dittoheads in this world.
Make time to go down roads that go nowhere, or at least go walkabout on some of the ones that have been less traveled.
To all of you who aren’t too interested in politics, you need to be. If you don’t vote, know that those who always do are old and set in their ways and often could care less about the things that are going to shape your lives, like climate change, the cost of entitlement programs, and the global economy. Plus our elected politicians always seem to love to start new wars, and you are going to be the ones who are sent off to distant places to fight and die in them, assuming of course your generation is brave enough to insist that we stop having an all-volunteer army to do our dirty work for us.
Never stop being curious. It may kill cats, but it’s what keeps human beings truly alive and well.
For those of you who are in love with credit cards, you need to know that compound interest can be your best friend, or your very worst enemy.
Remember that life is never fair or just and that it belongs to those who are willing to risk.
And most important of all, put your computer games, iPhones, and other electronic gadgets down every now and then and look into the faces of others!
Daryl can be reached at:
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