The class of 2010 has learned to burp at will

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The trouble with most commencement ceremonies is that they are longer than a senior year. I find it challenging to give a commencement speech worthy of being forgotten by the end of the week.

It’s an honor to address such an illustrious group as the class of 2010. Your lives have changed. You will have to wait until your class reunions to be reminded of the time you tripped over a line on the gym floor. You are part of the first generation that will have grown up getting lost while programming your car’s GPS.

Your school claims that your test scores show that it is doing a good job. Now it will be your turn to prove to them that you can do a good job. You won’t always be able to fall back on that satisfactory grade you received in fourth-grade deportment.

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Some of you have learned to burp at will. The school refuses to take credit for that.

If high school was a reality show, you are about to enter into a shadowy conspiracy called “life.” High school does prepare you for life. That’s both good news and bad news. This might be the saddest day of your life and the happiest day of your life. One day, you will look back at your school days and walk into a tree.

It is my job to give you bits of advice to ignore. This counsel comes from years of making mistakes. I have winnowed an endless list of things learned the hard way down to a few for your elucidation.

It’s not always important to face your fears. Ask anyone who has teased a grizzly bear.

One of the greatest gifts you can give another is your ear. I don’t mean that you should give someone your gift-wrapped ear. I mean that you should listen. People like that. Heed the words of Dale Carnegie who said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming more interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you”

Never eat at a restaurant that offers you a free meal if you find a Band-Aid in yours. Never eat any food that looks like the flu.

The left lane is the fast one.

Anger and envy are akin to idling your automobile all day. You burn high-priced gasoline that could be used to make miles. Anger and envy waste energy that could be used for worthwhile accomplishments.

There will be less before there is more.

Don’t worry too much about the time. As one of my high school teachers said, “A watched clock never boils.”

Drink your orange juice and then brush your teeth.

Have a Plan B.

Many of you will postpone reality and attend college. A copy of your parents’ credit scores and your good test scores equal college. There you will spend money that looks like play money. That’s because none of you failed recess. Playing is what we do best. That’s why we have currency that resembles play money. College is the way to go for those with a yen to learn and for those who enjoy blaming teachers for their problems. Teachers helped shape who you are today but it’s not all their fault. Put that into your permanent record.

There will be times when you finally reach the top of the ladder, you will discover that it is leaning against the wrong building.

Help a little old lady cross the street. Make sure that she wants to cross the street before you help her.

Remember that favorite teacher, the one who made you feel like the greatest third grader who ever lived. Drop him or her a thoughtful note. It will make both of you feel wonderful.

I would like to end with something my father said. I thought I would never forget his words, but I did. Write things down.

I could end on the words of the commencement speaker at my high school graduation who said, “No matter what you do in life, the size of the crowd at your funeral will be determined by the weather that day.”

That was inspiring. We had graduated, despite having to eat marshmallows and gravy in the school lunchroom when the potato delivery was delayed. Most of us had graduated by the skin of our teeth. Our class valedictorian had a C- average. We were glowing with optimism and he gave us a weather report on the day of our internment. That’s why funeral directors don’t give many graduation speeches.

I leave you with the wise words written into my senior yearbook by every teacher who signed it, “Good luck. You will need it.”

Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.