Having attended my older son’s graduation a few days ago, I sat down upon reaching home, and started writing. Odd thing; It’s what I do, anymore. I sit down and try to capture in amber all the thoughts in my head, lest those words go away for being ignored. What you see below is the result of that early morning writing session.  What the heck; it works for Neal Boortz, I suppose the precedent is there. But I’m going to focus this speech to one very special person.  Take it as you will.
So, now, it starts. Your learning, I mean. And, with it, your life.
Oh, I know… “Huh? I thought that’s what tonight is all about!”
No, you didn’t spend those thirteen years learning about the world, per se’. You spent all that time learning HOW to learn. Your teachers, all this time, and not just the ones in the school building, mind you… have been performing the task of preparing you for life itself. And learning, you see is a primary function of life.
Well, now you’re prepared for it, about as well as you’re going to be, anyway…. now that you’re at this point in your life… a point you’ve worked so long and hard for, the first thing I’m going to tell you, is to look around you. Savor the taste and feel of your relationships today, your parents, your family… the gang you hang with…because they begin to change the moment you walk across this stage, and they hand you that diploma. There’s no way around saying this; Like it or not, graduation is a life-changing event.  That’s a hard truth to accept, for some of us, but there it is.  Remember the feel and the taste of those relationships because when you finally start getting a handle on what has changed, in about ten years, and forever after, you’ll call these years, your glory days.  And yes, that’s true even if you’re not too excited about all of it just now.
The second thing I’m going to say to you is that given that life changing event your next moves will set you on the path you’ll travel for the next 15 minutes.  You thought I was going to say ‘for the rest of your life”, right?

Oh, no, I mean it; I’m quite serious. Look, your guidance councilors, good people that they are, are going to tell you you’re making choices now that will affect the rest of your life. And to some degree, that’s true.  They will affect its trajectory, at least in the short term. But remember, that the book of your life is on your desk, and the pen is in your hands. If the story you’re writing isn’t doing it for you, you as that story’s author have the power to change some elements of it.  There are very few story elements you have control over, that are not reversible for the better.  The root word for decide is the same as the word ‘deceased’. Options die when decisions are made. So chose your storyline carefully, but don’t fret much over errors in direction, when you make a mistake on it.  Mistakes are a part of life. You can’t see all ends. You can always point in a new direction.  And anyway, what’s a decent story without a few plot twists? Pretty dull, really.
Thirdly; You’re in for a real awakening, going to the world of work.  The first thing you’ll notice, is that group dynamics that were so much a staple of your high school years, are not going to work so well when you’re punching a clock. Learn what you can from the folks who have been in your place of work a long time. They’re the best source for a feel of how to last in your job and grow there, too. Let them help you.
Fourth; Always remember that it’s a small world. Don’t burn bridges if you can help it.  You may need to re-cross that bridge someday.  Trust me on this one. This is one of the many situations where you’ll be amazed in a few years about how much you didn’t know. Time has a way of removing gaseous arrogance and replacing it with rock solid understanding. You’re better off not being on the wrong side of that bridge because you didn’t understand.

Fifth: Never under-estimate the value of discovery… that “Aha!” experience. Most experience is made up of hard fought battles and scar tissue. The “Aha!’ experience is simply beating on a problem until it vectors. Once you get the problem to change it’s direction, you have a bit more experience you can keep in your quiver for use in future events.  But Aha! isn’t limited to problems. Sometimes, it’s the pleasant things you discover about yourself and others, along the way. Often, these are the best discoveries of all. Don’t ignore them. One of the sadder things I’ve seen in life is people who completely ignore such things as not germane to the needs of the moment. Assuming you plan on living longer than a moment, always look beyond the needs and the feelings of the moment.

Sixth; Do not under-estimate the power of the lessons that history teaches.  The axiom that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it, holds true, here. History, in short is the only road map we have by which we can determine our current course… as a country, a culture, a people, and as individuals. Remember, that life is about change. Some change we see as good, some we see as bad. But there’s damned little of use that doesn’t change. That doesn’t mean embrace change for it’s own sake. Do not embrace change as a panacea without a solid understanding of what is getting changed and why.

Seventh: Guilt. It’s a powerful and necessary thing. It helps keep us on track.  But it gets used too much, so take it with some salt. Newton’s law states that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Florack’s corollary states that for every action, there’s some power hungry yutz trying to make you feel guilty about it. We know where that leads.  So don’t worry too much about guilt trips people lay on you. They have their own motivations.  Look, if we took seriously all the stuff we’re being fed by some people, we’d be all committing suicide as a way to halt global warming.
Eighth: Keep a plan B handy, particularly vocationally speaking.  This one’s a little harder to describe. All I can do here, is to get you looking at the past, and hope to give you a better understanding, thereby of the human experience so as to better your own experience. But my perspective is alas, different than is yours; Of necessity, my viewpoint is a receding one, looking back between then and now, and trying to tell you what I’ve learned, and on that basis predicting what comes next. You, on the other hand look forward to a world as you envision it, and hope it will be, and you’re just now starting to understand how it can be.  My world, as I saw it then, was a static one. One that could be built on. Trouble was, the foundations changed, the field I originally chose was a dying one, and so the building didn’t quite come out as I planned.  That’s where plan B comes into play. I got lucky because Plan B was something I liked, also. Your world from your own viewpoint is static now, as was my own. You don’t really understand the degree of change that’s about to come at you.  We’ve moved farther as a people both culturally and technologically in the last 30 years, than we have in the last 200 That rate of change is accelerating, too.  And you don’t really have a firm grip on this, yet. Not yet. But you will. Keep a plan B handy.

I could go on, but I don’t think I will. I’ve already given you a lifetime to consider… not that you weren’t doing it yourself already. I know, because 30 some-odd years ago, I, too, was in your robes, and in your seat. I was wearing that funny cardboard thing on my head. It’s a natural thing; I suppose to want to impart to you the scar tissue I’ve collected over the decades between then and now. Of course, it’s an impossible task, I can’t live your life for you.  Just as well, I guess. It’s best if you discover it for yourself. The ‘Aha’ experience, again.

That difference of viewpoint lies between us, and it is my task to tie these two viewpoints together, looking ahead by looking behind.  And OK, perhaps I’ve not done the best job of it.  But I can tell you this; I’m excited about your future. I have no fear for you. And know that we’re always here, if you need our experience to lean on.