By Robert Rector
It’s that time of year when the collective wisdom of the human race is reduced to bite-sized portions and spoon fed to those in whose hands the future resides.
We speak, of course, of graduation day and the speakers who exhort a new generation to succeed where previous generations fumbled the ball on the goal line.
Is anyone listening? A few perhaps, but conventional wisdom holds that the life expectancy of a graduation speech is about 15 minutes. After all, there’s more partying than pondering taking place on graduation day.
Just to test out that thesis, we conducted a highly unscientific and perhaps deeply flawed survey of grads, ranging from millennials to the mature.
Without exception, those interviewed not only didn’t recall who the speaker was, but also didn’t remember the words that they didn’t hear.
For those of you whose minds might have been elsewhere during your graduation ceremony, we offer snippets of some really smart speeches we have read over the years. Next time you run into your local journalist, thank him or her for being there to jot them down:
“A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
“When you leave here, don’t forget why you came.” – Adlai Stevenson.
“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!” – Andy McIntyre.
“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” – Nelson Henderson.
“So, what’s it like in the real world? Well, the food is better, but beyond that, I don’t recommend it.” -Bill Watterson.
“I want to congratulate you all upon your graduation from the University of Maryland College of Journalism and wish you luck as you prepare to embark on exciting careers in telemarketing or large-appliance repair.” – Gene Weingarten.
“Never go to your high school reunion pregnant or they will think that is all you have done since you graduated.” – Erma Bombeck.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” -J.K. Rowling.
“Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything. I promise you do. As the saying goes, we are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are stronger than we ever imagined.” – Sheryl Sandberg.
“Be Santa Claus when you can.” – Jimmy Buffett.
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill.
“During my second year of nursing school our professor gave us a quiz. I breezed through the questions until I read the last one: What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Surely this was a joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. ‘Absolutely,’ the professor said. ‘In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.’ I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.” – Joann C. Jones.
“Try putting your iPhones down every once in a while, and look at people’s faces.” – Amy Poehler.
“Truth eludes us if we do not concentrate our attention totally on its pursuit.” - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
“Now I usually try not to give advice. Information, yes, advice, no. But, what has worked for me may not work for you. Well, take for instance what has worked for me. Wigs. Tight clothes. Push-up bras.” – Dolly Parton.
“…and fear is the opposite of love… Fear is what blinds us. Fear is corrosive. Fear makes us hold back. It whispers to us, tells us that we’ll fail. It tells us that our differences are too much to overcome. Fear locks us in place. It starts fights. It causes wars. And fear keeps us from loving.” – John Legend.
“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary.
“In movie terms, when you started school, the country was an inspiring, uplifting drama. You’re graduating into a tragic, dumbass comedy.” – Robert De Niro.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou.
“To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards and distinctions, I say, ‘well done.’ And as I like to tell the ‘C’ students: You, too, can be president.” – Former President George Bush.
“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. … And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” – Rear Admiral William H. McRaven
“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, from a galaxy far, far away.
Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.