"Hammer’s commencement address

It’s a safe bet to assume I’ll never be invited to give a commencement address at any school or university. I haven’t really done much of significance in my life, other than complain about conservatives in this newspaper column for the last 15 years and find a way to get fired from every job I’ve ever had.

And I’m not sure I’d want to give such a speech, either, because I don’t like getting in front of groups and telling them things they don’t want to hear. And that’s what 99 percent of commencement speeches are, a little ego stroking to prepare the graduates for the long grind ahead.

I have prepared a commencement address, though, just in case someone happens to be dumb enough to ask me to give one. It goes something like this.

Dear graduates,

At the very end of the Sex Pistols’ last concert, Johnny Rotten took the mic and asked the audience, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” You should be asking yourself that very question right now.

Because, as you prepare to get drunk tonight and celebrate your graduation, you’re entering a world that really doesn’t have much use for you, unless you’re from a wealthy family or you have political connections. You, my friends, have been swindled out of tens of thousands of dollars for a college degree that entitles you to absolutely nothing.

Your degree will give you an advantage if you want to take the fast track to becoming a manager at McDonald’s or CVS. You’re now eligible to be blown up by a roadside bomb in Iraq with more stripes on the sleeve of your severed arm than the kid next to you.

Or you can work in a florescent-lit cubicle next to people with Dilbert cartoons and pictures of their pets as you try to find a way to pay off your credit-card debt.

And you English lit majors will have more things to discuss with your customers as you prepare their lattes at Starbucks. You poor, deluded journalism graduates may as well start practicing reading telemarketing scripts now, because you’ll need to know how to do it later on.

Members of the class of 2007, you have seen much more excitement in your lifetimes than have many previous generations. You’ve lived through the rigged elections of 2000, the horrible attacks of Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq, which was presented on a basis of lies.

In that sense, you have a leg up on other people. You know that the whole system is corrupt and there is no such thing as fair play anymore. It should come as no surprise to you that the best jobs have already been given out. By racking up massive student-loan debt, you’ve already been sucked into a deficit from which you will never emerge.

Previous generations have dealt with adversity by having promiscuous sex, rioting against the establishment and taking cool drugs while listening to good music. But for you, sex can kill, your riots will be squashed, the drugs are all poison and the music is shit.

It’d be nice to protest the war by smoking a joint and listening to Jimi Hendrix as you burn an effigy of President Nixon, but you can’t. Your option is to overdose on ecstasy while listening to Phish and being beaten by Homeland Security police.

I wish I had some advice for you, the members of the graduating class, but I don’t. Life is hard. You will cry from time to time. The system will fuck you over whenever it can. Your best bet is to lay low, make sure you never vote for anyone named Bush or who has an ® next to their name and try to stay out of trouble.

Don’t do anything illegal, because you will more than likely get caught at it. Try and get enough fiber. Enjoy a nice sushi dinner every now and then. Try not to destroy your credit rating when you’re young, because you’ll never be able to fix it later on. Watch South Park or the Borat movie. Try to laugh.

The best advice I ever receiving came during my freshman orientation at Indiana University in the 1980s. The speaker was a professor who basically said, “Figure out what you’re good at and then find a way to get paid to do it.”

That’s my advice as well. If you can manage to do that, then you’ll be better off than most of the people out there.

Thank you for listening.

(End Speech)

No wonder I’ll never be invited to give a commencement address. I’d be lynched before I could get off the stage. That’s fine; I have better things to do. South Park is coming on in a minute. I’ll watch that.




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