To The Graduates Of The Class Of 2011:
You are here today at a critical crossroads of your life. For most of your 21 or more years you’ve been taught to work hard, obey the rules, listen with respect to your elders and to trust that every effort you make will receive an ample and just reward.
You recognize that sound, don’t you? A few of your parents and teachers couldn’t keep their opinions to themselves…but let’s examine the reasons behind their laughter.
Yes, I am afraid that for most of your life you’ve been handed a script from “Leave It To Beaver” and that all those wonderful principles I enumerated earlier—work hard, obey the rules, etc.—won’t take you very far down the Road of Life in today’s America. In fact, if you insist on playing by the rules and trusting in the fairness of others you’ll very quickly get run over and flattened like so much road kill on that very same Road of Life.
All across America speakers like me are admonishing new graduates like you to live up to principles that are no longer relevant or practical. Hollywood Hero Principles no longer acknowledged in today’s business world. Principles which, like fragile Louisiana marshlands, cannot survive today’s overwhelming inflow of dark, viscous wealth-making ideas and ventures.
Go ahead, take a deep breath and smell the oil vapors. That’s America! That’s your future! It ain’t roses but it’s sure sweet!
Yes, other commencement speakers would tell you to work hard, play fair and be nice as you emerge from college to make your way in the world. I’m here to advise you to look both ways before crossing the street and to pick the other guy’s pocket before he picks yours.
Those other commencement speakers are frozen in time, spouting axioms and adages that long ago ran out of gas on the American Road of Life. Like scenes from an old black and white Hollywood movie they make us smile but they don’t prepare us for a world more reminiscent of “Jaws” than it is of “Flipper.”
“Be nice,” they say.
I say “Be nice when it helps, cruel when necessary, vicious when it counts.” People will tell you Bernie Madoff was a nice guy, but I never forgot to take all the money off the table before I went home.
“Don’t forget the Golden Rule” they say, most of them unable to keep a straight face while saying it.
“I also say “Don’t forget the Golden Rule”, only my Golden Rule is a little different from theirs. My Golden Rule says “Go for the gold and screw the rule!”
They would also tell you to, “Follow your bliss” in choosing a career.
Whereas I would advise you to follow the money.
So in short, members of the graduating class of 2011, I advise you to live richly as well as wisely, to always give to yourself first, to always take the largest slice of the pie, to choose financial gain over spiritual growth, and to steadily amass more and more physical possessions which, even though they rust and corrupt (as Jesus pointed out), they also clean up pretty easily these days.
So yes, graduates, feel free to live lives of unbridled hunger, unquenchable thirst and unfettered avarice, happily unburdened by a commencement speaker this morning who urges you on to seek out greater challenges while doggedly building strength of character.
For those of you who would like greater instruction on how to achieve your own wealth-based lifestyle filled with houses, boats and servants, see me at Webster Hall immediately after you receive your diplomas. Here in prison I’ve written a little advice book, only $35.95, on how to live the life you’ve always wanted when nobody’s watching.
The rest of you, I wish good luck and happy trails. I recommend you wear heavy boots.
This is a more fanciful version of a commencement speech that appeared a year ago on these pages. Again, I should credit a Ken Read-Brown sermon (in the form of a commencement speech) that served as inspiration for the original blog posting.