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NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

To the Grads: Platitudes with Attitude

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Delivering a commencement address is sometimes a daunting experience, and it often seems like a pointless one. Here are some ready-made musings for the class of 2006. Feel free to use them if your preferred speaker fails to show up.


It' commencement season. Now and again I'm asked to deliver a commencement speech. I always feel honored to share such a precious occasion with so many people. I'm also chagrined. The night before any graduation is, not to put too fine a point on it, often a time to party. There's often a bright sun overhead the next day. The commencement is scheduled for the ungodly hour for undergraduates of noon. The students are wearing long nylon gowns over a suit. You can look out from the stage and see eyes closing, chins dropping. You imagine the students saying five, 10, 30 years from now, My commencement speaker? I forget. The teachers invited him. Some bore. Katie Couric was booked. Colin Powell was too expensive, so they got what's his name. Please let me give you some idea of what I'm saying to graduates these days.

Ladies, gentlemen and transgenders of the class of 2006, remember, commencement is a beginning, not an end. Education is a journey not a destination. Oatmeal is nature's scrub brush. Get sick, get well, hang around an ink well. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask would you like a tall grande or venti? We meet at a time of unprecedented peril and unprecedented opportunity. The Red Sox and the White Sox have both won the World Series, leaving only the Chicago Cubs. Dare to be different. Dare to dream. I double dare you. Na na na na na! Find something you love. But you won't be able to marry him except maybe in Vermont.

Do what you love. Love what you do. This would be a whole lot easier if you could arrange to be born into a wealthy family. If not, you might have to do a lot of disagreeable things like cleaning out gutters just to get by. Sorry. As Abraham Lincoln once said, did anyone see the envelope I left around here? I jotted a few notes down. What's 87 divided by 20? Mr. Lincoln said a good many more significant things too. I just don't recall them right now.

Graduates of the Class of 2006, remember, the future belongs to you. Just let the rest of us rent it for a few days in July. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, unless you're Shirley MacLaine. If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, call security. Be true to yourself. For all others hire an attorney. Listen to your heart, but remember, it doesn't have a shuffle feature.

Make the world better than you found it, or at least clean up after yourself. There are times when you will stumble and grow discouraged. When this happens, blame your parents and your teachers, not me. I'm just your commencement speaker. Life goes by in a blink, so why are you already so tired? And remember, we will never pass this way again.

(Soundbite of Bob Dylan song)

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Simon Says

Simon SaysSimon Says

NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

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