The Merry Month of June

“Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.” – Al Bernstein

June is a month imbued with memories and memories in the making. If I were the month of June I would be stressed out—so much is expected of it and 30 days does not seem long enough to hold all of the expectations. It is the month when summer starts officially—in fact this year it raises its sunny head on Saturday at 6:51 a.m. I know this because I read the comics every day, and in the strip Mutts, Mooch the cat is told this fact by his dog friend. (Over the years I have gleaned much wisdom from comic strips—it is an education in itself). It is also the beginning of the summer wedding season; the month of graduations; the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation for many a student.

I graduated from public school, high school twice (grades 12 and 13) and from university. I do not remember a thing that was said at any of these graduations. I do not remember what any of the speakers told us and barely remember the essence of the valedictorians’ speeches. Mostly I just listened to hear if my name would be mentioned, and since I was not a memorable student, it never was.

I have quoted Anna Quindlen’s commencement speech (A Short Guide to a Happy Life) a few times because I think she had some wise words to impart, and I liked what she said, but I wonder how many of those who heard it really went away with anything of import. I ask this because I read an article in the Weekend National Post by Benjamin Errett in a column called “The Week in Wit”. His article, cheekily called “Good Luck With Life” addressed “the futility of the modern address to the graduates.”

Errett’s advice to anyone picking up an honorary doctorate is to “just collect it” and not give a commencement speech because (a) they are silly; and (b) no one wants your advice. He does not stop there, and I think he has a point. He is not addressing public or high school graduates, just university, so if you are giving a commencement speech to those under the age of twenty, I guess you have his blessing. Here is his reasoning for not speaking to university graduates:

“….commencement speeches are silly. No one wants your advice. Your audience will have spent the last four years acquiring and honing their skills, at least in theory. (I like that he adds this line: at least in theory). They will have learned from the best minds in the world, at least in theory (again with the theory…) and if they don’t know much in practice, they at least do in theory. (!!) So the idea that you will impart an hour’s worth of wisdom on How to Live to a bunch of cynical adults sweating under mortarboards (and if I remember correctly a very heavy purple gown with a stole that kept slipping on a day that was over 90 degrees F) is a bit out-dated, to say nothing of the fact that you made your name in a world that looks nothing like the one they face.”

I remember little from the day I graduated from university other than the fact that I wish I had worn something really light under my gown and not the little suit vest and skirt and long sleeved blouse I had donned. It was hot and I could not wait for my name to be called so I could venture across the dais to grasp my hard-won diploma in my sweaty hand. It turned out that the diploma was really just a rolled up piece of paper tied with a ribbon. The “real” diploma arrived weeks later in the mail. I do not remember a word that was said that afternoon. Not one word. Admittedly, it was eons ago, but I believe that as I was enjoying my graduation dinner with friends and family at a favourite upscale restaurant of my choice, I did not remember a word then either.

Errett’s advice to those who ignore his initial advice not to make a commencement speech is this: “…if you have to talk, be funny.” This is the best advice ever. I remember if not the words – the essence of the valedictorian’s speech from my grade 12 graduation, and while she was sincere and probably said all the right things, she added a dollop of humour—and it was the humour that I remember—not the ‘go forth be successful’ message.

Published in: on June 17, 2014 at 4:40 pm  Comments (21)  
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Christmas Conspiracy

Earl and Mooch

Earl and Mooch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blessed is the season which engages the whole word in a conspiracy of Love!” ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

I found these words of Christmas holiday wisdom on the Daily Comics page in my local daily, The Windsor Star. It was in the comic strip “Mutts” by Patrick McDonnell, and the one frame strip had an illustration of a dog and cat hugging while perched on the back of a chair looking out onto the world through a window.

Winter Landscape Illustration

Winter Landscape Illustration (Photo credit: pavlinajane)

I wish all of you peace and harmony and love (to go along with the hustle and bustle of the season and the occasional argument and alcohol induced outburst).

Happy Christmas Eve Day.