*What I’d Deliver at a Commencement Ceremony for Today’s Grads

When I was asked to speak to you folks today, I was hornswogulled when I graduated over fifty years ago, I heard how special we all were that because of our degrees, we were so powerful that our dreams would come true because were the heroes and it was our duty to improve everyone because the world was our classroom   I’ve reached the stage where my gumshoes are wearing thin but I can never settle back on my heels I’ve put my foot in my mouth so often, I had a huge overbite and after shooting myself in the foot so much my toes have taken a beating   I made the mistake of taking eloquent oratory seriously most of it is pompous misguided rhetoric sounds like a 30’s movie in a crazy dream   I am trying to get through those bubbles you’re in now trying to plow through the crazy-making phrases the empty patronizing compliments which will leave you more alone as though you were in a strange city where no one speaks your language   You are no more special than any other person in the world Your piece of paper is not worth more than the dignity afforded To each person breathing in this world   To be successful with your education is to realize yourself fully and then put as much into the meaning of your life as you know how to pour into your interaction with your co-workers all that you can give from all you’ve ever known heard  seen or remember   Within you there is an ocean which has carried the pasts of all your beginnings the possibilities of all your endings  and the fragilities of all your  Imminent presences   You are a cistern while your consciousness is only a sailboat traversing the waves of time.   If you think you can get away doing a song-and-dance act, tap your way to power or sing your way to success without taking painful steps of continual learning, you will dehydrate saturated with salt nowhere to put it.   Like the ocean you need every element  every cell  every living being because you are only as equal as they are like an ocean, you will always struggle but you will be supported by buoyancies of air  whispers  and sibilants of winds strokes of rain,  sambas of sand waltzes of trees songs of whales and dances of all your creatures   A gumshoe’s life is often lonely but one of the most important things I’ve learned is that without each of us on this earth life is an empty screen so whenever you do get a job put what your oceanic elements gave at your birth   Whether it leads anywhere rationally or not whether you end up learning what you thought you’d never need   Some of the best gifts are never wrapped they sometimes appear or feel as though they were dumped on your doorstep or presented as an insult to increase your struggles even so look them in the eye tell them the truth and say thanks   After all, we writers are the scavengers of life’s experiences we not only eat crow we get published for presenting it as the best gourmet cookbook anyone can read   You never know where your experiences can lead trust your enthusiasm keep your hearts and minds open like the ocean and your lives will be full   Always.

© Diane Stevenson Schmolka

  • inspired by Jimmy Cagney

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