Words of Wisdom for the Class of 2021
This is not one of those “meaning of life” orations. If you are an blithe optimist, you will believe that life is terrific and you will make lemonade or even Dom Perignon champagne on the days in which life hands If you an existentialist philosopher, you will probably believe life is meaningless or at least absurd. And if you are a cynical SOB like me on most days, you are like Eric Idle in Monty Python’s Life of Brian when he sang that when you look at it, life is a piece of s**t. Unlike Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s remarks about obscenity, I don’t know it when I see the meaning of life. All I know is that you will start discovering it the moment after you get your diploma. Hope it will be like those fairy tales you read in grade school with the proverbial happy endings.
Nor is this a paean to the virtues of education. You have heard that so often that you want run off to the nearest lavatory like Mr. Hart from The Paper Chase and kneel before the porcelain throne. You are now at the moment in which your book education is over. You don’t have to worry about tests, quizzes, homework assignments, hall passes, detention halls, Mickey Mouse courses that proved to more numbing than a hundred Mickey Finns, wedgies, fish sticks and mystery meat loaf in the school cafeteria, the smell of chalk dust in the morning and the afternoon, and dirty looks from your teachers. However, your education in the Real World is about to begin. I hope all of you will be honor students.
Nor is this a political discourse. If you want politics, watch a cable news network, read newspapers and blogs (yes, kiddos, they still exist), put up tweets and TikTok videos, participate in debates, and vote early–and often if you live in Chicago–at the nearest election booth. This is Graduation Day, not Election Day. It is a moment of celebration for you, your family, your friends, your teachers, your principals, and even the companies printing out your diplomas. You can debate about politics during the holidays.
Nor will you get deep philosophical insights. I am not a philosopher, and I am more familiar with Aristotle Onassis’ romps with Jackie Kennedy than the Aristotelian discourses. If you are interested in philosophy, read Dr. Socrates or even Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. Please don’t major in it unless you want to go to be a professor, a lawyer, or a person who spends hours thinking about such monumental questions like “If a tree falls in the forest with no one around, does it make a sound?” while schlepping coffee at the local Starbucks.
I know all of you are like the incontinent people in the TV commercials a few years ago who had the urge of “gotta go gotta go”. I just want to congratulate you and wish you good luck. In an age of coronavirus, lockdowns, civil unrest, climate change, economic downturns, and student debt, you will need good luck more than ever.
One piece of advice–don’t let the door hit you on the butt. You don’t want to act like you have a bad case of hemorrhoids when you leave with your diploma.
As they say in New Orleans, let the good times roll.
Joe’s Maybe Memorable Quote of the Day
Too much education can be wonderful until you have to pay your student loans.
P.S: Besides congratulating the graduates, I would like to congratulate the mothers on Mother’s Day.