Al Batt: Congrats on sitting through the ceremony

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt


Every graduate has surprised someone by graduating.

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It’s that time of the year when graduates who worked hard to graduate, start wondering what was the hurry.

In my dream, I’d been hired to give the commencement speech to the graduates of a school that my hirer refused to divulge the name. “Just babble on for about 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter what you talk about. No one is listening,” said one of the school’s leaders. “Those speeches can be eye-glazing.”

Does anyone who is more than two weeks out of school remember their commencement speaker or the speech by their senior class president? I wouldn’t know my commencement speaker if he came up and bit me on my cellphone. My entire dream speech was, “What we have here is not a failure to congratulate. You are what a graduate looks like and now you are smart and stuff. This is your best day ever. (I let them know right away that I was fine with flinging falsehoods about.) ‘Aba, daba, daba, daba, daba, daba, dab,’ said the chimpie to the monk. ‘Baba, daba, daba, daba, daba, daba, dab,’ said the monkey to the chimp. Don’t forget to tip your parents.”

I figured that nonsensical talk would be memorable. I’d more likely say something else in real life. something like what follows.

It’s an honor to speak to you, whoever you are. And a surprise to be addressing you today, as my freshman class voted me most likely to stay there.

Graduates, you’ve taught your teachers a lot, but your classroom has just become much bigger. You’ve come a long way since the Lord of the Flies Preschool.

Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Don’t do that. This past winter showed that Frost would have become stuck in deep snow.

Sis boom bah to each of you. That’s an exclamation of encouragement popular in school cheers, but what does it mean? Johnny Carson, playing the seer Carnac the Magnificent on TV, once held a hermetically sealed envelope that had been kept in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnalls porch to his turban and said, “Sis boom bah.” That was the answer. Then Carnac opened the envelope and read the question: “Describe the sound made when a sheep explodes.”

Warren Buffet, when asked about the key to success, pointed to a stack of books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”

Good advice. You’ve been given other good advice. Believe in yourself. Work hard. Be thankful. Show up. A speaker is supposed to give unsolicited advice. Call your mother. Allow others to finish a sentence. Reality TV is not reality. Clean up after yourself. Listen to your parents, they have a lot invested in you. Accept limits. Particularly speed limits. Life gives you signs, especially traffic signs. Pay attention to them. Wildly successful people will tell you how wonderful failure is. Failure is awesome for others. Ask a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle what they were like when they were your age. You’ll both be glad you did. Even your best days will have difficult moments. If you can’t figure out what you want to do, find out what you don’t want to do. If someone is going to willfully misinterpret what you say then there isn’t much point in further discourse. Don’t walk in shoes that are too small for you.

Guillaume Apollinaire wrote, “‘Come to the edge,’ he said. ‘We can’t, we’re afraid!’ they responded. ‘Come to the edge,’ he said. ‘We can’t, We will fall!’ they responded. ‘Come to the edge,’ he said. And so they came. And he pushed them. And they flew.”

Fortunately, Guillaume Apollinaire wasn’t a flight attendant.

I wish you a life marbled in joy and discovery.  Earl Nightingale said, “We are all self-made, but only the successful will admit it.” I want you to do well, so you can fund my Social Security. Tag, you’re it. Here are a few tips to help you prosper.

Saying “Rabbit, rabbit” before anything else on the first day of a month will bring you good luck for 30 days.

Repeating things increases the processing fluency of others. Repeating things increases the processing fluency of others.

Don’t compare your Chapter 1 with someone else’s Chapter 21.

You will never feel the same about anything after this day.

Stay classy and worthy of our suspicion.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Saturday.