The Original Graduation Speech (loosely based on some word-salad from June, 1973)
We drew straws to see who would give the first speech and I lost. (I had to give the first address among four selected to do so that evening, on a football field, facing west)
As I look out over this graduating class, I see a future with a lot of baldness and divorce. I am also staring right into a sunset, so my squinting should not be taken for sober, single-minded, sincerity.
I have been credited with the phrase, "It's easier to pick up a book than a girl." I would like to take time now to rescind that statement. I'm a bit older now, a little wiser — I've been to Paris — and now I find I can't pick up either. Can't even look at a book. They send chills down my spine. Of course, girls send chills down my spine, but that's another story. In my case, that's a short story. As a rule, people make me very nervous. There has to be more going on inside than I’m able to see from here. And again, I’m squinting.
I have a note here to include some quotes from the Bible, Shakespeare, or the recent IRS tax codes, so let me state for the record, “Jesus wept, do you think I meant country matters, and save your receipts for seven years.” There. Got that out of the way.
I have concluded that the purpose of education, whether in the context of high school or other higher centers of learning, is to keep the busy person busy. He becomes one less person to worry about — one less person everyone will have to keep an eye on. The lazy student, if he plays his cards right, has little to worry about. He'll pass, be forgotten, perhaps later on become a member of the state senate. However, remember that a busy person just becomes more efficient at time management, because no matter how busy I am, I’ll always make time for Dark Shadows. I may be asking you for your blood type later on.
All this Eastern philosophy, more Tao than Mao, makes for fine talk at a graduation ceremony.
Some will say that this is really just our beginning...that we're on the verge of the real world now.
I contend that high school is poor preparation for the real world, especially when its conclusion comes so rapidly. Being assigned to remain behind a book for four years is the best time machine in the world, but it tends to cause a bit of myopia, it tends to narrow one's field of vision. I can torture ants with these glasses of mine, but I can’t change the oil in my car. I can tell you things about Zachary Taylor that could make you blush, but I can’t tell a first down from a home run. I think both have something to do with going out doors.
A bookish life can also make a person idealistic, and idealism is an almost certain early death. It works only in books. And life is more than an epigram. And an epigram is not much different than an epidermis - it gives only a thin covering to what lies beneath.
I shouldn't complain; it got me where I am today, and next year, it will get someone else up here. And in ten years, there will have been ten more of me up here. And I don’t relish that thought any more than most others. Ten Jim Middletons. There’s another chill down my spine.
So what's my advice to future classes, besides investing in hats and saving for legal fees?
Knowing that any advice will be forgotten with the last piece of graduation cake, I would like to say this: life is too short to be taken seriously.
There will be people who will take it seriously, and they will fill pages in history books with noble deeds, noble ideas. But those are for books. And while I love books, while I have found comfort there, I know that they are hardly life. So, kids, get out there and get muddy.
Thank you, and good luck to you all. (as a follow up, on January 26, 2023, I ran this through an AI writing checker, and it said, with 80-90% certainty, that it was written by a HUMAN! I have finally attained the recognition I have so long sought!) Try it yourself at - https://aiwritingcheck.org/
Now, Chat EPT (AI) “rewrote it” thusly (Version 1): - note - each of these following examples, checked by another AI program, recognized their kindred spirits as a fellow AI generator!
As we stand here today, on the brink of a new chapter in our lives, I can't help but feel a mix of emotions. Excitement for what the future holds, but also a sense of sadness at leaving behind the familiarity and comfort of high school.
But as we look back on the past four years, we can't help but feel a sense of accomplishment. We've persevered through the highs and lows, the late nights studying and the early morning wake-up calls. We've made friendships that will last a lifetime and learned valuable lessons that will stay with us forever.
So as we move forward, let's remember the resilience and determination that brought us here. Let's not be afraid to take risks and embrace new opportunities. And let's not forget the importance of balance – while it's important to work hard and strive for success, it's also important to take time for ourselves and the people we love.
But most importantly, let's remember to enjoy the journey. Life is short and unpredictable, and it's easy to get caught up in the stresses and pressures of the real world. So let's not take ourselves too seriously, and remember to find joy and laughter in the little things.
So to all of my fellow graduates, I wish you the best of luck on your next adventure. Whether you're headed to college, starting a new job, or traveling the world, I have no doubt that you will all achieve great things. Congratulations and thank you for the memories.
And, a second run, just to see if it could become more bland and traditional --
"As we embark on this new journey, it is natural to feel a mix of emotions - excitement, anxiety, uncertainty. But no matter what lies ahead, we must remember that education is a lifelong process and we should never stop learning and growing.
"High school has been a time of growth, not just academically, but also personally. It has taught us how to think critically, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively. These skills will serve us well as we navigate the complexities of the real world.
"But education is not just about the grades we earn or the awards we receive. It is about becoming well-rounded individuals who are capable of making a positive impact on the world around us.
"So as we leave these hallowed halls and venture out into the unknown, let us remember to embrace every challenge and opportunity that comes our way. Let us strive to make a difference in our communities and the world. And most importantly, let us never lose sight of the fact that life is too short to be taken too seriously.
"Congratulations to the class of 20XX. May all your dreams and ambitions come true. Thank you, and good luck to you all."
OK, it seems Chat AI actually “read” the original from 1973 - a bit - and perhaps may improve with a third try:
"As I look out at this graduating class, I see a bright future filled with endless possibilities. You are all capable of achieving great things and making a positive impact on the world.
"But I also know that the journey ahead will not always be easy. There will be challenges and setbacks, but I have confidence that you have the determination and resilience to overcome them.
"Remember to always stay true to yourselves and pursue your passions. Education is a powerful tool that gives us the knowledge and skills to achieve our goals, but it is up to us to put that education into action and make a difference.
"I encourage you to embrace every opportunity that comes your way and make the most of your time. Take risks, be curious, and never stop learning.
"To the Class of [Year], I offer my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes for the future. You have all accomplished so much, and I have no doubt that you will continue to achieve great things in the years ahead.
"Thank you, and congratulations once again to the entire graduating class."
That seemed a regression, so once more, to determine if it can distill anything else out of whatever personality I had at age 18:
"As we stand here on the cusp of a new chapter in our lives, I am filled with both excitement and trepidation. The road ahead will not be easy, but it is a journey that we undertake together, united in our shared experiences and hopes for the future.
"Looking out at this graduating class, I see a group of individuals who have overcome countless challenges and obstacles to reach this moment. We have learned, laughed, and grown together, forming lasting bonds that will endure even as we go our separate ways.
"But graduation is not just the end of one journey, it is also the beginning of another. As we embark on this new path, we are faced with a world full of possibility and potential. It is up to each and every one of us to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead, to chase our dreams and make a positive impact on the world around us.
"So as we bid farewell to our high school years, let us also embrace the uncertainty and excitement of the future. Let us remember to always stay true to ourselves and to never lose sight of our goals. Let us remember to be kind, to be compassionate, and to be grateful for all that we have.
"And most importantly, let us remember to have fun. Life is too short to be taken too seriously, so let us embrace every moment and make the most of it.
"So here's to the class of [year], and to all that the future holds. Congratulations, and best of luck to you all."
Fifth time's a charm, if only to get more foundational material to parody later:
"Graduates, we drew straws to see who would give the first speech and I lost, but I'm honored to be able to speak to all of you today. As I look out over this graduating class, I see a future filled with endless possibilities and opportunities.
"I know that many of us have spent the last four years working hard to prepare for this moment, and I want to acknowledge the dedication and determination that it takes to graduate from high school. This is a significant accomplishment that should be celebrated and recognized.
"However, I also want to remind us that this is just the beginning of our journey. As we move on to the next phase of our lives, whether that be college, a career, or something else entirely, I encourage you to keep an open mind and to continue learning and growing.
"Education is an ongoing process, and it's important to remember that we don't have to have all the answers right now. It's okay to be unsure or to make mistakes along the way. In fact, these experiences can often be some of the most valuable and transformative in our lives.
"I also want to encourage you to be kind and to support one another as you navigate this next phase. It can be a challenging and overwhelming time, but we are all in this together. Remember to reach out to your friends, family, and mentors for support and guidance when you need it.
"As you move forward, I hope that you will always remember the value of hard work, persistence, and determination. These qualities will serve you well in whatever path you choose.
"So, graduates, as you step out into the world, I wish you all the best of luck. Remember to have fun, stay curious, and keep learning. Congratulations on this amazing accomplishment and I look forward to seeing all that you will achieve in the future. Thank you."
And that is about all I can stomach for this exercise. I do see a lot of boilerplate blandness that populates the typical graduation address - and likely where future graduates expecting to “say a few words” will go for their inspiration without perspiration.