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Graduation: The Light Side

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Education is essential for well-being. College graduates earn more money, live longer, and are healthier than school drop-outs. This is why graduation ceremonies are such a big deal. It is really important to celebrate this great educational achievement. During May, thousands of students and parents celebrated an important milestone in their lives.
In a rapidly changing world, graduation ceremonies around the country remain a well-established tradition. Some things never change in college graduations:

  1. 99% of the graduating girls will have to see a podiatrist after wearing high heels designed for masochists.
  2. 100% of 7/11 stores will run out of beer.
  3. 99% of commencement speakers will say one or more of the following:
    1. I had to go to school uphill both ways
    2. When I went to school “cut and paste” hadn’t been invented
    3. Turn off your cell phone and smell the roses
    4. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet
    5. Change, change, change
    6. Change the world
    7. Inspiration
    8. Entrepreneurship, technology, start up
    9. Within you
    10. Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever give up
    11. Integrity, serenity, sorority, fraternity, liberty, plasticity, creativity, identity, solemnity, curiosity and many other words ending in “ity.”
  4. 99% of the graduating students will not hear a word said by the commencement speaker because they will be changing their Facebook status from Single to Graduate.
  5. The announcer will butcher the names of 99% of the graduating students from engineering.

A typical graduation speech goes something like this: “Steve Jobs went to school uphill, both ways, until he met Bill Gates and then quit school because he had a huge inferiority complex and decided to use his brain plasticity to invent time wasting technologies so that all the students graduating from Engineering Schools around the country would have a job and show Bill Gates that he also could do something good for humanity that did not involve malaria, Africa, or Warren Buffet.”

Nowadays, of course, no graduation speech would be complete without reference to Nelson Mandela or Rosa Parks, who all of a sudden has become an iconic figure among Republicans who liken her to Ted Cruz. A typical sentence in a graduation speech today goes like this: “Rosa Parks did not have a Twitter account but Nelson Mandela could have used one — entrepreneurship technology entrepreneurship technology entrepreneurship technology Bill Gates start up change technology change neuroscience start up change Warren Buffet start up entrepreneurial spirit don’t forget to thank your parents.”

When it comes to the student speaker, a typical speech goes like this: “Remember during orientation when all we cared about was sex….education and they told us to refrain from alcohol and we went to the football game and what’s his name and the cheerleader — fidelity, integrity, validity, reliability — and all of us went straight to the bar — values, ethics, don’t drink and drive — and during sophomore year when the school newspaper published photos of the girls in Gamma Lama Mamma in — integrity, modesty, values, ethics, loyalty, start up, fidelity — and remember Mrs. Fields from the cafeteria who used to let us in late after midnight? Too bad she was fired for smoking pot with us.”

Another common graduating speech is: “When I came here I was a complete degenerate. I spent the entire first year of college playing poker and smoking pot. I used to spend a lot of money until Professor Smith joined us for poker and started bringing free pot from the biology lab. He showed us how to get into the biology lab through the rear entrance of the Chemistry building. Professor Smith was a real friend. It was too bad the administration got rid of him. Luckily, no sooner did they fire him than Professor Pothead became the head of the oxycodone research program and we were able to find new ways to pursue meaning in life. Too bad he was fired for sexual harassment. But I’m here to tell you that after seventeen years and three expulsions, I’m finally getting my bachelor degree in pottery. I have a bright future ahead of me, and I could not have done it without Professors Smith and Pothead. I owe a lot to this institution of higher education. In fact, I owe it in excess of $ 85,000 in tuition and $ 5,398 in library fees for overdue books. When you add my student loans to the federal government, I’m looking at something like $ 357,999.00 which I plan to pay playing poker using some tricks that Professor Smith taught me and never forget integrity, loyalty, fidelity, voluntarism, Alma matter, football, football, football, Katie Gotfrendsen, and God bless America.”

Isaac Prilleltensky is Dean of the School of Education and Human Development and Vice Provost for Institutional Culture at the University of Miami. He is also a humor writer. His latest book is The Laughing Guide to Well-Being: Using Humor and Science to Become Happier and Healthier. Order now: The Laughing Guide to Well-Being: Using Humor and Science to Become Happier and Healthier

1 Comment

  1. Jason says:

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