I have not yet been invited to give a commencement speech this graduation season. Or any season in the past, for that matter, which means there must be a fatal flaw in the postal system that prevents these invites from being delivered to me. But no matter. That just means I'll have to start from the bottom up and address this year's most important graduates: the kindergarteners.

To you I would say, first of all, please pick up your things. And you, in the back, with the mismatched Garanimals outfit, stop hitting Susie. Thank you. Now that I have your much-divided attention, I'd like to begin by saying that you've reached the point in your lives when it's useful to look back at your significant record of accomplishments and assess where you are and where you're going. You've come of age during...Let me back up: You've gained a bare-minimum level of self-consciousness during a period of significant upheaval in the world, and you may be wondering if all there is to life is the chaos and disruption you've known. Wait till you're out of puberty and ask me again. But in the meantime, the answer is yes, there is more to life than the whispers you hear over dinner about tornados, and high unemployment, and underwater mortgages (please don't take "underwater" literally; your bedroom will be just fine), and collateralized debt obligations (don't ask, but let me just say that you might want to take your addition and subtraction lessons very seriously).

Because there are good things as well as bad things out there, you shouldn't hide under the table during story time. And yes, I'm looking at you, Billy. Get out here. By the time your lifespan has stretched out past the decade mark, and then another decade, and then another, you’ll have seen an incredible variety of good times and bad. But adults are no better. We think of the present and assume that the future will be just like the past, that the current reality is the only reality. We hit a bump in the road and assume that the bump is all there is. Right now, all you’ve known is that bump. Your entire five-year existence has been that bump (keep in mind: The bump isn't your fault. Probably).

I've been there. I grew up in the 70s--for you, a time shrouded in myth and the improbability that your wrinkled and spoilsport parents were once your age--with gas shortages, this thing called inflation, and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. At least I had Star Wars, so that was something. And then things got better. And worse. And better again. 

You’re adaptable, and you bounce back from setbacks. There’s even a book about you that's supposed to teach adults a thing or two called “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten.” Technically speaking, that book's false, since I didn’t learn the fine art of delegating responsibility to other people until well into my 20s, but still, the point is well taken. You'll do fine. Most of you. Probably. (Another thing I learned after kindergarten: caveats). 

Now go out there and play or whatever it is you do nowadays, and make sure you stay off my lawn.



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    A former student and teacher of philosophy, I write a daily stock market/humor column for a major financial organization from my home base north of Austin, Texas. If I find any words lying around after deadline, I stuff them into a novel-in-progress. It turns out that these are usually the wrong words.


    May 2013