I know that I’m as old as dirt because I used to babysit for this toddler when I was in college who has now graduated from his own college and is a few years into a stellar journalism career. I couldn’t feel more proud….and old. I know I am of a seasoned age when I watched the live feed of President Barack Obama’s commencement speech at Barnard College, my alma mater, and realized that I had more in common with the parents of the class of 2012 than the graduating seniors.
And, like those mothers and fathers, I listened to the various students and faculty and POTUS address the graduates with a parental filter focusing on the nuggets of wisdom I could pass on to my own children. I tried to glean relevant and applicable lessons so that I could start slowly working in inspirational messages at the bus stop and sage advice on our way to Tae Kwon Do. Forget about leading by example. I was going to fortune cookie the way to my children’s success.
When Barnard’s commencement ended, and Barnard’s President Debora Spar escorted President Barack Obama off the stage, I thought, “That was good, but what else is there? That was only one speech by one man addressing a graduating class of women, and I’ve got 2 boys. What more can I learn from other commencement speakers?” That’s when I purposefully stumbled upon Huffington Post’s 17 Commencement Speeches by Awesome Comedians.
Luckily, I did not pay attention to the amount of time I actually spent watching video after video (but if you go to the article and add up the minutes of, say, 14 of the 17 videos, you can figure out how much time I wast…invested). Granted that’s a boatload of time I’ll never get back again, but that’s how committed I am to my children. That’s how determined I am to dig deep and do the proper research to become the best guide a mother can be. Also I’ll do anything to get out of cleaning the kitchen.
After a morning or two spent with the likes of Stephen Colbert, Ellen Degeneres, Amy Poehler and Conan O’Brien, I distilled all the necessary advice and recurring themes to provide the highlights you need to deliver a comedian’s perspective to your own graduates-to-be.
- Even though you’ve spent (or borrowed) tens of thousands of dollars attending an institution that requires you not to fail, at some point in your life you will fail. Failure is the greatest gift you’ll ever receive because, as they say, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
- No one succeeds on his/her own. Surround yourself with people who believe in you.
- Listen to your inner voice and do what makes you happy as long as the inner voice does not tell you to commit a crime.
- You will move back home and live in your basement after college, so be nice to your parents who will most likely not charge you full rent.
- Don’t worry if you didn’t do that well in school. Average students rule the world. Well, average students become comedians or Republican politicians who rule the world.
- Study improvisation so you can learn to embrace the unexpected.
- You don’t have to work hard in school to get a diploma if you become a wildly famous celebrity who is handed a degree by colleges who need a good headliner at commencement.
There were other pearls of wisdom I neglected to include, but these, I felt were particularly poignant if not the ones that were repeated the most often. I realize that comedians may not be the most appropriate people to be shelling out advice to a graduating class. I’m sure that had I watched 17 Commencement Speeches by Awesome Hedge Fund Investors, I would have taken away completely different messages like Work your ass off, and you’ll be fine or Keep your friends close and your tax lawyer closer or You can always find good help to raise your children for you.
Perhaps that’s a bit judgy and unkind. It’s possible that the hedge fund investor has benefitted greatly from improv classes and has rebounded from failed investments only to find unexpected financial reward elsewhere. But the fact of the matter is, they’d probably give a lousy speech.
So in conclusion (as sayeth all commencement speakers), I’d like to wish all the graduates of 2012 and young graduates-to-be rent-free living and much failure. You’ll thank me later. And to all the parents of skiving graduates, who seem to lack any kind of ambition, be kind to your kids. They’ll make good one day, and they’ll never forget your loving support.
Deborah Goldstein is a freelance writer and author of the humor blog, Peaches & Coconuts. She began blogging after relocating to the UK where she worked in media sales, traveled, got married and had her first child. Now she’s back in the US at home full-time in suburban New Jersey trying to convince herself that she's living every Jewish, gay mom's dream.