Commencement Address, Catalpa University, May 2021
Class of 2021, congratulations. You’ve made it through significant challenges and unforeseeable challenges which no other graduating class in history has ever had to face. Your struggles and accomplishments are utterly unique. Just like every other graduating class in history. What you’ve been through is the sort of thing that would make great material for a college application essay if you weren’t already graduating from college.
Congratulations on making it here. Most of you, having made it here as freshmen, were statistically unlikely to graduate. Or statistically likely. Or maybe it could have gone either way. I really don’t know. I haven’t looked at the numbers. Anyway congratulations on being a statistic, but in a good way, and not like somebody who’s been struck by lightning three times which, I think, is pretty statistically unlikely, but also makes you statistically very likely to be the sort of person people move away from at parties.
As I look over and slightly to the left of your faces I, having once been where you are now know exactly what you’re thinking. How long am I going to talk before you can get your diploma and get out of here? Someday, maybe very soon, you’ll be wishing you could have dragged this out for a lot longer. But bear with me. Be patient. I promise to only speak as long as I’m contractually obligated to do so, and sometimes putting in the absolute least amount of effort can lead to great success. College taught me that. Specifically when I I aced a test on statistics.
I would kill time up here by reading the phone book but they don’t have those anymore, and it’s a shame. Tough guys used to demonstrate their strength by tearing phone books in half. Believe me, you don’t have to be that tough to tear a laptop in half. You just have to be fast enough to run away from the guy it belonged to.
You know what you never hear about? Someone being bitten by a shark while mountain climbing. You know what you also never hear about? Someone being mauled by bear while they were at the beach. That’s something you can think about if you can’t think of anything else.
Because you’re here you’ve passed many tests. Those of you who are finally here after five or six years of trying also failed many tests. Once you leave here you’ll face many more tests. With luck, determination, and hard work you’ll pass most of those tests. However in spite of luck, determination, and hard work you’ll also fail many tests. Don’t worry about it. You won’t be graded on most of them.
It’s a shame phone books are no longer around. Once some friends and I called for a pizza. We didn’t know the number for the place so we looked it up in the phone book. There were two listed. We called the first one and ordered a pizza and then we had to go pick it up so we wrote down the address. But we wrote down the wrong address and when we got there they didn’t have any record of our order. We ended up getting two pizzas.
You’ve had to answer many questions as part of your education, but as you’ve already learned, life is full of questions, many of which don’t have clear answers. What will your career ultimately be? What challenges will you face going forward? Why do people make videos of themselves watching videos? Does anyone really know where Suriname is? Why are there no single-A batteries?
These are the kinds of questions you can use to fill up space if you’re trying to fulfill an obligation to take up a certain amount of time, but I don’t recommend using any of them to pad out a resume, but if you’re ever in a position to do so I hope you’ll stick some of them into a job application. Hire anyone who says they don’t understand the question. Hire anyone who has a funny answer. Hire people with eyepatches because you know they’ve got a story to tell.
Thank you for your time and patience, and and for falling asleep and letting your heads droop forward so I could see the cool decorations on your mortarboards. I’d like to stay longer but I’m pretty sure I see a guy who wants to talk to me about his laptop.