Tag Archives: commencement

Pomp and circumstance

Tomorrow is the big day–my son’s college graduation.

In the movie Parenthood, the grandfather, played by Jason Robards, observes this about being a parent:  “You never get to spike the ball in the end zone and do your victory dance.  It never ends.”

There’s no doubt that’s true.  But tomorrow will be pretty darn close.

As much as I look forward to watching my son walk across that platform, there’s something else I am looking forward to.

Yes, the all-important commencement address.  I’ve heard very few in my lifetime.  My father was the commencement speaker at my high school graduation and, while he was a big hit, I’d heard him speak a few times before.  I didn’t participate in my own college graduation exercises because I was already working full time and didn’t consider it important.

This time of year, I enjoy reading the various commencement addresses.  These speeches are intended to give young adults advice for succeeding in their professional lives and motivate them to high achievement.

Let’s get real.  The graduates are sitting there numb from exams and term papers, perhaps a little hungover, and exhausted from clearing away the leaning towers of pizza boxes and other debris that’s piled up all year, in anticipation of their parents’ arrival.

A commencement speaker with any hope of stirring these men and women had better make it pithy, punchy and to the point.

I’m no Kurt Vonnegut  (who reportedly never delivered that famous Wear Sunscreen speech at MIT), but I’ve often wondered what I’d say if I were in front of an audience of graduating seniors. 

I thought back to something I did when my son went off to college four years ago.  As the nerdy, over-involved mother I am, I jotted a list of keys to success, typed it out and framed it to sit on the desk in his dorm room, so he could look at it every day and be inspired.  I think it came home sophomore year, never to be read again.

10 Secrets for Lifetime Success and Happiness

  1. Drink water – eight glasses a day will keep you healthy, inside and out.
  2. Read the paper – know what is going on in the world; be informed, keep a global perspective.
  3. Say your prayers – ask for guidance and give thanks.
  4. Say no – to options that are destructive to yourself and others.
  5. Say yes – to opportunities to do good for yourself and others.
  6. Count your blessings – at the end of every day, think of three things you are thankful for.  Even when you have a bad day, you will always find something good, however small.
  7. Make eye contact – look people in the eye; it will help you to be a good listener.
  8. Keep God at the center – let him, not you, be the focus of your life.
  9. Help the needy – be attuned to those who are vulnerable and tend to them.
  10. Call your mother – she worries.

Maybe I’d add “watch your grammar.” 

If you had one piece of advice for today’s college graduate—perhaps something that has worked for you or something you would have done differently—what would it be?

In the meantime, I will enjoy the big day and might even do a little victory dance.

Reminder:  Word Nymph doesn’t post on Sunday.  Did I mention my son is graduating?

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