Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Commencement Speaker


Graduation day out on the football field at UNC-Chapel Hill. The speaker walks out wearing a black cap and gown, shakes hands with the University officials and then waits for everyone to take their seats.

Speaker: Well, good morning boys and girls. I trust all of you slept well last night. I myself slept astoundingly well despite the fact that I had a speech to give today and I hadn't even written anything by the time 10PM arrived. So my gift to you is not a speech that all of you will write off years to come from now and say at reunions, "I can't understand why we paid that guy to flap his jaws for an hour and a half under the burning hot sun," but instead a speech that will make you say, "that guy's as clear as Carolina Blue"
Students begin cheering and clapping.
Speaker: Shut up, I'm not done yet. Anyway, the big question is, what to do after you graduate. That's a pretty tough question. I asked myself that many, many, many times when I was up all night studying for Biology tests and idiotic classes that would have no impact on my life and future career. "Well," I said to myself, "If I could figure out a way to extort people for money, and go live in Argentina after that was over, then I'd be set." But alas, I was surrounded by goody two shoes who had no leverage for me to use to extort them. I first started off overseeing a chemical plant, but that fell through. And by fell through, I mean I literally fell through the ceiling and into the processing section where chemicals were being manufactured. I was let go soon after that, but I had a fiery determination. I was going to succeed in life no matter what. After the chemical debacle, I bounced around for a bit going from job to job. I worked as a Chippendale's dancer when the times got tough, because as that old saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough start to take off their clothes. Soon after, I got a job working for the New York Times. They never explicitly told me what my job was but for the longest time I could remember, I got to cover explosions. A typical day would read something like this: "They say there's a fire consuming the Brill Building and that it could collapse any minute!...Send Newell out to cover it!"
And so I would cover it. I covered them all, explosions, fires, homicidal maniacs on the loose, the dangers of lead paint in bagels. And at the end of it all, my leading editor would read what I'd written and say to me with a fatherly smile, "I'm kind of surprised you survived that coverage, Newell!" I admit myself that work took a toll on me.
I soon developed the habit of carrying a fireman's ax and extinguisher around with me, and I constantly wore kevlar. People called me paranoid, and a fool. But I was completely vindicated once the New York Times building went up in flames. I went around breaking down doors, carrying people outside, and was deemed a hero by the media. Even my old boss had to accede my heroism. He actually gave me a type writer and an office that wasn't doubling as a broom closet.
But the limelight was not for me. I soon quit my job to work on a musical for Broadway which would debut there and at the West End. My musical opened, and I was suddenly offered more jobs than I could shake a five-limbed branch at. I took some time off; I deserved it.
I sailed to the tropics, somewhere in the vicinity of the Leeward Islands. There I discovered the fountain of youth. I drank from it. Not because I wanted eternal youth, but because I could only imagine the amount of money I could win by betting people how much hot sauce I could drink at the next dinner party I went to. The water revitalized my stomach and entire body, and the amount of money I won was staggering.
By this time, I was 25 and I'd done more in my life than I care to repeat. I had enough money to retire and become a philanthropist. My main work was at my alma mater, though I'm not sure why Human Rights organizations sent me there. I was handed a massive sign and walked around the entire campus with the thing, shouting out to people. In all honesty, I thought the Human rights campaign was a little bit biased. What about the human lefts? So I decided to start a new slogan. A typical day went by with the following exchange between me and the masses: "You there! Do you support Human rights? Picture this: if the human rights were to meet the human lefts, what would we have? Peace, prosperity, and ambidexterity!"
I was removed rather abruptly and was told to get serious about this sort of thing. So I did. I dressed all in black and attempted to look the most miserable I've ever looked in my entire life. If this was serious, I said to myself, then it bites.
So I began to become rather light hearted in nature. As a matter of fact, I was so light hearted, that I started floating up one day and had to shout out to people who were rapidly becoming specks on terra firma, "You there! Tell me something depressing!" Life was beginning to get interesting for me.
I walked the straight and narrow, when I got tired of that, I walked the crooked and wide. When I got tired of the crooked and wide, I walked the up and over. The up and over wasn't really for me though. You look ridiculous attempting to walk the up and over down the street and it's impossible to do if you're in a suit.
I'd literally been through all walks of life, people, and it was something else. However, at the end I felt jaded. My life was in black and white, so to speak, and it needed music to bring the color back. I started a band; we toured the universe and elsewhere. It was the cat's pajamas as those crazy kids say today with their leet speak.
And at the end of the tour, the band stopped at the University of North Carolina for its last show. I went and looked around, admired at how everything had changed and the place that started it all for me. It was a catalyst. By enduring the crucible and being baptized in the fits of rage surrounding its incompetency and waste while neglecting the student body and increasing tuition hikes for everyone-
The microphone is cut off and the speaker starts to argue with the University officials. Some agreement is reached, and the speaker steps back up to the podium and continues his speech. "And now a word of advice, kids: when a man offers you a few thousand dollars to retract your statement, take the money and run. But now for the end of my speech. Do not go gentle into that goodnight. Punch the lights out of the goodnight if you have to, and if it's a bad night, go get a baseball bat and defend the wife and kids. Do what you gotta do and say what you gotta say. Oorah! Semper Fi, do or die, hold 'em high at eight and I! [the officials start to pry the speaker away from the podium] Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! I have yet begun to fight! ARGH! [Get off me!] Go forth, be fruitful, and multiply!
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