John E. Budzinski

I Am Not Going To Talk About That, In My Graduation Speech

May 13, 2024 by John E. Budzinski

Thank you for inviting me. It is so cool to be standing here before you decked out so regally in my royal blue, gold, and silver robe. Don’t I look great? This robe is undoubtedly more impressive than those boring black and white garbs you all have on. It is unusual to see me dressed in such magnificent garb. It is so out of character. My normal modus operandi for dress has me sitting at my desk at home dressed in a T-shirt and gym shorts. 

But I digress.

So, why am I here? I could tell you it’s because my golf game got canceled, and I had nothing better to do, except that I do not play golf. For the record, I don’t bowl, either. And let me tell you right off, I’m certainly not here for the money. I am not getting paid.

Mostly, it’s ego, I guess, and finding out what it is like. After all, I have never given a graduation speech before, and it is cool to be doing so. But there is a problem. Having never done this before, I have no idea what the heck I am doing or what I am going to talk about. I’ve bet you’ve been in a few classes when you felt like that. Guess what? As you go through your days and times, you’ll have more experiences just like them.

I will tell you this. Take a deep breath and relax. My little spiel here today won’t take too long, and it will not be the typical stuff you hear some speakers yammer on about when they give commencement addresses. I’ll try not to bore you.

You know why? It is because of what Abraham Lincoln once said in one of his speeches. “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” He’s probably correct. Heck, it won’t surprise me if in the not too distant future, most of you forget what you did at this illustrious institution over the last few years, let alone remember some speech at the end of it all.

That is proper and good, though. Come on! We all have so much we need to keep active in our brain cells, and I think you will agree a graduation speech does not warrant making page one of the list. Yes, my ego may get dashed and stuffed where the sun doesn’t shine if you do not remember what I say today. But you know what? That just makes a case for me not saying something of great consequence and importance, or relaying wondrous words of wisdom in my graduation speech.

Why? Because that way, it doesn’t really matter so much what I say, and you won’t feel so bummed out when you forget it, right?

You probably haven’t heard too many graduation speeches in your brief lives, have you? I doubt any of you—if any—have sat down and actually read any.

Me?

Yes, I have, quite a few, actually. (Yeah, I need to get some excitement in my life.) And you know what? So many of those I’ve read have been the tried-and-true slop advice we’ve all heard at least a dozen times from teachers in grade and high school, or by our strange aunts and uncles at family picnics.

This is sure for today. I am not going to talk like any of those addresses you may have in my graduation speech.

Here is another truism. There are no rules for giving graduation speeches. Though, in light of today’s cancel culture and too many people walking around with their shorts in wedgies them to dive head-long into conniptions and heart palpitations at the mere hint of something undesirable, graduation speakers hesitate to talk about some interesting subjects. That hesitation further reduces the already few graduation speech categories that we can talk about.

Many graduation speakers talk about politics and the shape of the world today—often attempting to make some thinly veiled, humanely motivated point, or policy theory they want you to buy into and believe. You may want me to say something like that—even though whatever I say is bound to make someone happy and someone else angry. While I do Like conflict… but,  nope, I am not going to talk about politics and world events in my graduation speech.

Others talk about society and all its ills: favoritism, privilege, unfairness, and a host of isms like sex and race. They ramble on about injustice, prejudices, and other evils. Yep, there is a lot we have to do and should do, and many things we need to fix on this planet of ours. We could discuss it all, because, I guess, you fresh graduates do have a part to play. But I am not going to talk about that in my graduation speech.

Speakers get some laughs and often some uncomfortable cringes with vain attempts at humor. Experts and mentors tell you it is good to be funny when you give a speech. And boy, I could. I can tell you some cute and wild stories—like the one about the ghost with the two white eyes. But, alas, that is for another day. I am not going to be funny in my graduation speech.

 “You Are The Future!!!” That is what lots of copious and dutiful commencement speakers bellow when they talk. They’re uplifting and positive, almost evangelical as they spout forth, “You can accomplish anything. Just put your mind to it and do it!”

Yeah, right.
Ugh!

Maybe it is true. But this is also true. Despite words like that bringing up the barf factor in some of you gathered here today, enough of you here would find words like that thrilling. It would be time well spent saying them. After all, I am the epitome of positive and optimistic attitudes—PMA—Positive Mental Attitude. So, I could chat about that. But Nope. I am not going to talk about that in my graduation speech.

I am sure music, literature, sports, art, and even gardening have a place in speeches given on days and occasions like this one. But not me. Nope. I am not going to talk about any of that in my graduation speech.

So, that does not seem to leave much to talk about, does it?

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the bills and student loans many, if not all of you, have to begin paying as you leave this institution today. Yes, the outlandish cost of achieving and attaining the education you’ve acquired over the past few years—I could talk about how education should be free, and if you think it is over and the bills will stop, guess again. It certainly will be ongoing—and still not free. Yep, I would be remiss. Guess what? I’m going to be remiss in my graduation speech.

Do you think you’re done with education? Good lord, it has just begun. But I am not going to talk about that in my graduation speech. Hey, you’re all college graduates. You’ll figure it out.

So, what am I going to talk about?

One word—with maybe a wish and hope.

That’s all I have for all of you.

The word?

Kind.

Be kind to yourself.

You will have successes—many, I hope—and you must celebrate them. Pat yourself on the back, and don’t fret if anyone is jelly because of what you’ve accomplished. Also, there will be times when you screw it all up—more times than you can imagine, and get it all so very wrong. Be kind to yourself when you do. Forgive yourself.

h, as long as you’re at it, celebrate others’ success. Everyone deserves some ego time, too, don’t they? And be kind to others when they screw it up. Practice RAKs. R. A K. Random Acts of Kindness. Work diligently to understand perspectives—yours, of course, but others more than your own. It doesn’t hurt and probably won’t cost you a penny or even much time.

So, with all I am not going to talk about, I will say this. Congratulations and good luck. Do your part in making today better than yesterday, with an eye on making tomorrow better than today.

Thank you.

Now, get the hell out of here and go celebrate. You’ve heard enough lectures and speeches and whatnot. Go have some fun.