Miller: The super-short graduation speech we all wish for | SummitDaily.com
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Miller: The super-short graduation speech we all wish for

Alex Miller

Through an amazing old technology called “experience,” I’ve managed to reproduce the inner (and not so inner) thoughts of the Summit High Class of 2011 as they sit in the school gym Saturday listening to our lieutenant governor (Pop quiz! What’s his name? -No Googling! I don’t know!) give the graduation speech. The LG may be Colorado’s answer to MLK and Henry V combined in terms of inspirational speeches.

But I doubt it. Most talks of this type revolve around reminding the seniors just how fabulous these days are, how challenging (yet fun!) are the days ahead and how, no matter what, they can survive it all by remaining confident, steadfast and true to their goals and ideals, etc. etc., then wrap up with a reiteration of the theme that, if you just get off your ass and do stuff while staying positive and engaged, you’ll be OK.

Since most of us have sat through this identical speech at one time or another, we know that the grads, Homer Simpson-like, are hearing a different tune in their heads that has little to do with ingesting the wisdom of the speaker. They are, in fact, focused on one precise moment in time: The instant that the speaker will stop speaking and the ceremony will move forward toward its inevitable (if distant-seeming) conclusion – when life as we know it will really and truly begin. Clever species that we are, humans devised the graduation ceremony and speech as a set of speed bumps and superfluous obstacles to be navigated just, it would seem, to make being a high school grad that much sweeter. Because hey, if you can survive a mind-numbing speech while dressed in a robe and square hat in a room that’s 800 degrees, what mountain can’t you climb?

Anyway, as promised, Saturday’s speech as it will appear to my daughter and her classmates:

Good morning all you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed seniors! It’s your big day!

(collective groans)

You know, when I was your age …

(OMG here we go)

… things really weren’t so different.

(Uh, yeah, they were. There were no iPods, laptops, cellphones or Lady Gaga, and you never had anyone text you a breakup message right after a really cool date. You don’t know our pain, old man.)

Back then …

(when dinosaurs roamed the earth, dude; when you were playing “Pong” in feathered hair and velour, when Star Wars movies had good scripts and crappy effects …)

… (speaker here inserts personal anecdote meant to illustrate solidarity with the “youth of today”)

So you see, no matter what year, what decade you are entering the world as a graduate, you will asdfowifjoi alkjf dssaa a;sf euuuuf f ffffff …

(zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz)

(Applause)

It’s not easy, this graduation speech. You really can’t stray too far afield from the basic cheerleader-y encomium. You can’t, like Jack Black did in “School of Rock,” counsel the kids to just give up now cuz The Man will always keep you down. You’ve got to be more like Steve Perry of Journey, whose “Don’t Stop Believin'” has, remarkably, stood the test of time and become a prom staple. (Note to graduation speakers: If possible, skip the speech altogether and just show a video of the song.) Even if you manage to successfully blend the messages of hope and challenge, rolling it all into a beautiful and inspiring medley the parents will talk about for years, you’ve still got that audience that, if you’re lucky, will remember one thing you’ve said. Maybe it’s just a word or three, but if you succeed in planting just one seed of helpful advice they’ll remember past the afternoon’s post-graduation festivities, why, then, you’ll be more successful than most.

Which is why I offer now my soon-to-be-patented two word, easy-to-remember graduation speech containing what I now believe to be the ultimate advice for grads or anyone who wants to do OK in life. Here goes …

Keep moving!

That’s the speech. No charge, you’re welcome, we can all leave now. Oh, sure, you can qualify it a bit by saying you’re not talking about moving from Breckenridge to Council Bluffs to Prague and back to Summit. It’s about continuing to challenge yourself, to never accept the status quo and to do what you can to maintain an active and engaged mind (etc. etc.). As Woody Allen once wisely said, 80 percent of success is showing up. “Keep moving and showing up” – that could be the four-word “long” version of the speech, especially if you’re being paid and want to deliver more bang for the buck.

Yep, who needs all those words when those grads will only remember a few of them? Throw in a “good luck” or two and we’re good to go.

Any questions?

Alex Miller is editor of the Summit Daily News, a 1982 graduate of Summit High and proud father to Michaela Miller, SHS class of 2011. Reach him at amiller@summitdaily.com.


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