Friday, May 4, 2012

10 Things that you won't hear any commencement speaker saying at this year's graduation ceremonies

It's May, flowers are in bloom and students are preparing for graduation exercises. In the next few weeks, you'll read about the who's who addressing graduating students at prestigious schools around the country. I suppose it's an honor to be invited to give the commencement address; unfortunately, I've never been asked to give one. Sad but true. However....if I were invited to bestow words of wisdom upon your son or daughter's graduation, here's what I would say.

Here's what they won't hear from any other celebrity commencement speaker this year: 10 things I would tell today's graduating students, if given the opportunity:

1. Congratulations. Because of your presence here today, it's the recognition that you've gained some knowledge but I would be remiss if I didn't take this occasion to remind you that true knowledge is to know God who is superior to us in every way. Knowing God is the key to knowing yourself and maintaining humility. God is great, Almighty and infinite and we aren't. The sooner we learn this, the wiser we will be.

Your true identity will not be found in a job or successful career. Your true identity won't be found in being successful, well-liked, or even relationships. Your true identity is not defined by what others say about you, or even by a church or religion--No, your true identity comes from the Lord and what He says about you, and He says that you are valuable and have great worth, just as you are because you were created in His image. Your identity is found in knowing God as your Heavenly Father and your relationship to Him as His son or daughter. 
As the great mathematician & philosopher Pascal wrote in Pensees, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus
As you go through life, you will either attempt to fill this empty vacuum with success, wealth, recognition, awards, promotions, power, sex, drugs & alcohol--or you will fill it through a relationship with God. All your efforts to fill that emptiness with anything other than the real thing will fail miserably.

2. Life is not fair. Get used to it. And who decides what is "fair"? Is it the President or some government bureaucrat or someone in the IRS? What you think is fair may not be fair to me or others. BTW, not even God is fair. Check out one of my earlier posts on this subject.

3. Get a historical perspective. For many of you, your historical perspective goes back to the day you were born. But it will serve you well in life to expand upon your knowledge of history.  As George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." You can't remember or forget something you've never known. Get to know history and judge everything you read and hear today in light of the historical past. 

You need to understand about the history of our country. Read the biographies of great men and women. Read about Washington, John Adams, Lincoln, Reagan, Truman, Margaret Thatcher and others. If you are not a reader, then do yourself a favor, get a Netflix subscription and watch following HBO miniseries: "Band of Brothers", "The Pacific", "Generation Kill" and especially "John Adams." 

4. Not everything that is important can be communicated in 140 characters on Twitter. While brevity is important, you need to "man up" to the fact that much of what you need to know will be found in books that consist of way more than 140 characters. For example, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights can't be communicated in a Tweet. 

5.  Learn to think critically. As Thomas Sowell has said, “The problem isn't that Johnny can't read. The problem isn't even that Johnny can't think. The problem is that Johnny doesn't know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.” Learning how to think critically means learning to ask questions. 

For example, you may have heard this stat which recently made headlines in USA Today and trumpeted by the media: "More than one in five children live in households that struggle to put food on the table." It was also played up as "More than one in five children in America go to bed hungry." 

When you hear a statistic like this, do you ask, "who says so?" Where does this statistic come from? How was it compiled? How do we know that the findings are accurate? Does the group that is promoting these stats have something to gain? Does it further their agenda (like government funding, etc.)? Question: How can we have a dramatic increase of 45 million Americans who are now receiving food stamps while at the same time having more than 1 in 5 children who are hungry? Are they hungry because they choose not to eat or don't like what is on the menu or being served for dinner?

6. It's time to look for the exit doors and escape from what you've experienced as "Group Think." Now that you are graduating, it's time to grow up and realize that you can begin to think for yourself. Far too many of you have been pushed by peer-pressure Group-think, swayed by "coolness" and late-night TV comedians and the Hollywood crowd. 

For some of you, your inability to think is due in large part to pre-K through 16 liberal indoctrination, and that's why some of you are ready to vote for Obama this November, even though he has done more to destroy your chance for getting a job and saddled you with a debt that you'll be paying off for the rest of your life. Up till now, you've been brainwashed by your government teachers, professors, media, etc. but now, you can declare you independence and begin to choose who does the brain washing. You can start to think for yourself and stop following the rest of the crowd just so you can be accepted as "cool."

7. When you get your first job, look at your paycheck and take note of how much of your pay is missing due to taxes. Are you paying your fair share? Do you want to pay more? You can always write a check to the IRS and pay more if you choose to, but not even Warren Buffet is dumb enough to do that. 

Most people who want everyone else to pay MORE in taxes, don't want to pay their own fair share including our Sec. of the Treasury, Tim Geitner. If you don't like having all of your hard-earned money taken out in taxes, stop voting for Democrats!!

8. You are not immortal.    I remember standing in the Amherst, NH town cemetery and looking at the tombstone of someone who had died in the 1794. Here's the inscription on that tombstone: "Where you now stand, I once stood. Where I now lie, you shall soon shall be." What this guy was saying on his tombstone inscription was the fact that once he was young, maybe even graduated from Dartmouth College, married, became a father, had success in business, but he  grew old and died. He wanted me and everyone else who viewed his gravestone to know that we had the same future in store for us as well. No matter how often we go to the gym, or take vitamins, or eat healthy, we're going to join this fellow in the cemetery. So, just knowing that should cause each of us to make better decisions.
As Jim Elliot martyred on Jan. 8, 1956 by the Auca Indians in Ecuador wrote in his diary: "This one life will soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."
 9. When you are meeting someone for lunch, whether it be a friend, relative or for business, leave your communication device in your car or at least turned off. You are showing disrespect for the other party and basically telling them where they rate on your scale of importance. If you can’t stay off the smartphone, then cancel the luncheon or dinner engagement.

10. The sooner you realize this, the better off you’ll be: Your college education is grossly overrated and oversold. The object of education is to increase intelligence, NOT simply graduate with a diploma. You need to realize that education never ends. Every day you should be trying to learn something new, reading books that will expand your understanding and your vocabulary. The greater your vocabulary, the better your chances for making a good impression especially during a job interview. They’ll think of you as highly educated, even if you aren’t. 

The real world doesn't care as much about protecting your self-esteem as your school does. The real world expects you to actually accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. Be thankful if you have a boss or friend who is hard on you and won't let you take “shortcuts.” If you screw up, your boss is not going to ask you how you “feel” about it.

If you want to hear positive feedback, work hard so that you’ll deserve it. Be responsible. If you screw-up, forget about your hurt feelings—own your mistakes and endeavor to learn from them.

Now you know why I've not be asked to give the commencement address at any colleges or universities lately. 


  1. I used some of your stuff for one of my college class' discussions. Hope that's ok? :-)

    1. Of course, Jenny. Anything for you. How's Chicago? Do you like your new home? The Windy City is a far cry from Tampa.