Commencement 2020

In 2010, I delivered a commencement address to my 416 graduating peers of Moorhead High School. I tried to synthesize some ideas on legacy – and probably only succeeded in putting a few to sleep. Fear not, for I have a much shorter and likely more effective message for this year’s graduates on the 10th anniversary of my own entrance into the ‘real world.’

Class of 2020, let’s get right to the chase. You all want success, happiness, and fulfillment in the life ahead of you. And whether you are headed to college, to the work force, or back to your parents’ basement, I have five key lessons which can ensure you acquire those three ideals:

  1. Avoid all sources of objective truth – This is absolutely paramount if you want to make it in this world. Self authenticating sources of ultimate authority are typically at odds with a rebellious world full of people constantly trying to adapt and change their ‘solid’ grounds, so avoid them at all costs. You do not want to be enslaved by these sources. The key to moving through the world happily is building relationships with people, and in order to tickle their ears with what they want and need to hear to let you into their group, you can’t be fundamentally at odds with everything gripping their soul. Do as they are doing and simply become your own authority. As you shape and mold these thoughts, just be sure to follow my next recommendation …
  2. Listen to people – You have heard it said that you should listen way more than you should talk. Let’s all admit, this can be hard for us to do …just look at (insert name of student who is class clown/popular/can’t shut up but everyone thinks he’s hilarious….then wait for smiles and laughter). Having thrown off the chains of an objective standard for your worldview, you now are free to listen to the people around you and adopt their worldview. Do not, however, hesitate to borrow elements you might like and even need – knowledge, the scientific method, patience, forgiveness, kindness, grace, love, logic, etc. – you can use them, just don’t think too hard about where you got them. Join in the group and don’t question humanity’s movement into a greater good. Be a part of this stream as much as possible. Accept everything – except anything which claims you shouldn’t accept everything. Again, you’ve thrown those shackles away.
  3. Demand things – It is at this point where you maybe were expecting me to lecture you on the benefits of working hard. I’ll admit, in the past, many of our speeches trailed off in such a direction. Some of you will in fact work hard, and this is an honorable thing. However, you should decide to proceed in such a way with caution. There can be much loss and heartbreak if you decide that option. Today, I want to provide you with an alternative route. If you find yourself in a place where you are not happy with your lot in life, do not be timid in demanding what is rightfully yours or what someone may have falsely claimed they “worked” for. Sadly, this movement has not fully been realized, but I think this generation has the chance, if we ‘work hard enough’ to be the group that brings it to full maturity. We can elect leaders who believe this, and they are out there, which is fantastic and not incredibly terrifying in any way. We can ensure that those who come long after us will always receive everything they’ve ever wanted by simply demanding it; we can be the heroes who rally together in the streets and break down the oppression of hard work, dreams, and individual spirit and potential! Who is with me!
  4. Claim your rights as a pot – Some of you might think I’m talking about a different kind of pot here (pause for mild laughter at lame attempt at humor which must accompany every commencement speech). Alas, I’m referring to you as a pot – a created being in this world; it appears science is in fact suggesting we are a derivative of sorts, even if it is a muck of pond scum. Always remember that, even if something did ‘create’ this whole world you are so eager to head out and influence and make your mark on, the real person with autonomous freedom is you, the pot, not some Potter. I think you will find it much more comforting to guide yourself down your own path of ups and downs, which you will undoubtedly face, knowing full well you have autonomous freedom to make your own choices about who you are, the nature of humans, where you want to go, and any other definition of literally anything. Whatever “god” is out there, he has given us all the same things. If there is a god, if there is a Potter, it only makes sense that he should ultimately be bound by us pots – we can write our definitions of love, hate, choice, freedom, upon him. How else can we survive as a society? I think we will all agree the alternative would be frightening: a sovereign, almighty Potter who is acting out his perfect decrees for the lives of only those who by His perfect grace and loving will have drawn to love and submit to him? Again, that is sounding a lot like something you might hear from the “Bible” and if there is any hindrance which will certainly tear apart your worldly aspirations, it is following the words found in that supposed “revelation from God.” Steer clear of those things, pots, and if you need it to help you steer yourself in the right way, don’t worry about smoking a little pot, too. (pause for nervous laughter and glance at police, parents, administration to see if they are ok with comment….)
  5. Keep it quick – We now live in a world where things are at our fingertips and happen in an instant. Thus, you should know that wonderfully deep and beautiful treasures no longer require toil, time, and exhausting efforts of searching in order to acquire! Wisdom, for example, is not a pearl one must dive to the bottom of the ocean for – don’t believe that for a second. If something can’t be explained to you in one sentence, you are not obligated to understand it…and whatever is contained in it can’t be true and …don’t worry, at worst it doesn’t apply to you. If someone has a thought which requires more than a few seconds to express, you ought not to listen. If something in your life does not come to fruition within your attention span, pain threshold, or the strength of your ability to persevere, than don’t worry — it wasn’t worth it. Move on. You aren’t good at it, and that’s ok. Here’s a truth I think will resonate with you: the best things in our world are instantly gratifying. I hope this speech was not so long that you fell asleep and missed that (pause for another groan or laughter).

And so class of 2020 – be kind to our planet (note to self: make sure you say this if feathers appeared to be ruffled…everyone can agree on this and will remember you said it) – be inconsistent in your worldview- be accepting of almost everything – and you will do great. Be well. (wait for roaring applause!) whatever that means (barely heard under roaring applause).

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