I?ve never actually been asked to give a graduation speech. No, no. I am not fishing for an invitation. But, I have sometimes thought about what I would say as I faced the shining group of eager faces about to get a cold slap of reality from life.
Would I hand out the usual words of encouragement about how the world is theirs for the taking or quote Dr. Seuss books?
What if a commencement speaker stood up and told the truth; would he or she be booed off the stage, or would the audience members appreciate that someone finally spoke with candor?
I imagine that speech would go something like this:
Class of 2015, I congratulate you on completing your four years of high school. I assume they were consecutive for most of you here today. Your teachers and your parents have worked hard to get you onto this stage; some have perhaps worked harder than you did.
I am sure there are adults in your lives who have at times been more worried about your grades than you were. But, that?s OK. You made it, and that is all that counts these days.
When you first walked through that door into kindergarten?it would have been easier if someone had opened it first?you must have thought about the 13-year journey of learning upon which you were embarking. Or, you might have been thinking about the kid who still had a milk mustache from breakfast. Either way, you had taken the first steps on your academic road.
Would you be a troublemaker, a teacher?s pet, a principal?s personal project or just another face in the classroom crowd? You may have been frightened into compliance, or you may have been determined that some day you would make your mark, even if it was just a dirty word carved into a high school desk.
And now, here you are, about to become alumni. How does it feel? Is it the cure for ?senioritis,? technically defined as ?inflammation of the senior??
Are you looking forward to a world in which you no longer have to ask to use the restroom, only to once again hear a teacher snap back, ?I don?t know, can you??
Will it be refreshing not to have your grammar corrected when you say, ?me and him,? or be directed to ?show your work??
No more dress codes. No more academic detentions. Are you simply thrilled to slam the door on your adolescent years?
Or, if truth be told, are you sensing the slightest melancholy at the close of this chapter of your life? Will you miss the hallowed halls, which always seemed to smell of bacon near the FACS room or freshly cut wood around the shop?
When you stumble across a sniff of formaldehyde, so common on our city streets in this great country of ours, will you travel back in time to the biology lab and the helpless expression of the face of the frog or cat or fetal pig you so eagerly dismembered?
Well, I have news for all of you. Whether you enlist in the military, join the workforce or head to college, you will still have trials and tribulations ahead of you.
Adults may no longer be there to poke and prod you along, to get you going in the morning or to call in sick for you when you really just need a day for yourself. From now on, everything depends upon you and your self-motivation.
I?ve come to know all of you, and, I say this in the nicest possible way I can, there are those in this group who are going to struggle. Some will even fail, drop out of school, get fired from a job or not be able to cut it in boot camp.
But, I can tell you from experience, there is almost always a second chance. Make the most of it. You may not get a third or fourth or fifth chance, like you did in school.
The trick is figuring out what you want to do with your life as quickly as possible. Your parents do not want you to move back home. Ever. Your mother may very well be crying tears of pride today, but they might also be tears of joy or even tears of relief. Only she knows for sure, and she is not telling because this is your day, your shining moment.
Just remember this, and you will be better prepared for what lies ahead. Into every life a little rain must fall (unless you live in California), and how you deal with that rain will ultimately direct you. You can turn your face into it and embrace it. You can sit down in a puddle and pout about it. Or, you can do what the greatest examples of your generation will do: bottle the stuff and sell it on Craig?s List.
In closing, I leave you with this tidbit of advice that I have tried to live by all my life: If a circus is half as good as it smells, it?s a great show. Now, go out and get yourself a ticket.
Bob Woelk teaches English at Hillsboro High School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.