News & Politics

DURST: The Every-Graduation Speech

The future depends on you.
Friends, graduates, parents, teachers, agents and seekers. Today is a happy day. Today is a sad day. Today is the day you say goodbye to one thing and hello to another. A fond farewell to the past and yet at the same time a cheery salute to the future. All hail the unknown.

Let's look at the word knowledge. It has two parts. Know and ledge. That's where you are -- on the ledge. And knowing it. You know you have an education but what ledge are you on exactly? The really really high one where the wispy clouds of naivety obscure your view of the horizon or the tiny ledge just above the basement window with the gladiolas in the little half oval fenced off area by the steps? Beyond that, what is an education?

An education is a gift. A precious gift. But not a fragile one. A rugged gift perhaps, but at times brittle too, and always unique to each and every one of you. What you take from this time as your individual gift will be different as puce and mauve. Some of you will walk away with a gift that you tear the paper and ribbon off like four year olds mindlessly ripping through a boozy Christmas morning and others of you will be maiden aunts folding the wrapping away in a neat square, wizened but steady hands carefully smoothing out all the wrinkles of the gold foil. And a few will file your gift away in a hall closet behind the winter coats and never think to take it out until its been gnawed on by huge rats. Don't fret. Its all good.

But an education is much more than just a gift.

An education is also an obligation. Not a burden, but a weight, yes.

Yet not all weights will be the same. Some of you trudge from these hallowed grounds carrying a heavy weight. And others saunter away with a light weight. Some pack middle weights and others fly weights and welter weights but one thing's for sure. All of you will be out there looking to avoid the TKO by the always unseen left hook of reality. There will be rabbit punches too, and below the belt poundings with rusty nails poking through chain mail gloves but now is not the time to talk of those. There will plenty of time soon enough.

Education is also ... HEY, SHUT UP! Thank you. An education is also a ticket to a land far away. But whether it is a round trip ticket or a government issued one way, or a first class ticket or one of those "discount last minute deal middle seats between two fat guys and you don't even qualify for frequent flyer mileage and the bathroom has a leak in it so when the plane comes in for a landing a stream of you-don't-want-to-know-what gushes right between your legs and you have to put your feet in the seat pocket in front of you and roll your pants up" tickets is not for you to know right now. Just remember to always carry your passport, but not in your suitcase. That's just what they expect.

That's my best advice. That and you can mix wine with beer and beer with hard liquor but not wine with hard liquor. And never get behind a driver wearing a hat or a Volkswagen bus and especially a driver in a hat in a Volkswagen bus. And if at first you don't succeed, find a gap in the fence or a civil servant who could use a double sawbuck. And never ever eat pork sausages at a carnival. And avoid getting in fights with ugly people, they got nothing to lose. Above all else, remember, eat when you're hungry, sleep when you're tired and drink when you're horny.

Thank you and good luck. You're going to need it.

Will Durst didn't write this. Kurt Vonnegut did.
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