The Graduation Speech They Deserve

As Jake walked across the stage, shuffling by the front row of insignificant, self-important deans and other inflated assholes, his smile grew. He was about to be put at the helm, and they couldn’t react until the damage was done. As he drew near the black podium, there wasn’t much applause coming from the graduating class, and that didn’t bother Jake: there wasn’t much reason for it since nobody really knew who he was. He had written a few noteworthy poems for a small niche of readers, and had managed to stay in touch with his former professor still at the university. Because of this his work was circulated and lauded, allowing his name to be nominated and then selected as a “successful” alumni to give a commencement address for his alma mater.

After his speech, he knew his status in the minds of others would change. Certainly the faculty would publicly abhor him, but what about the youth out there, beyond the podium microphone? He was now looking out at them, a great mixture of diverse, 21 and 22 year old bodies all accepting the rigidity of traditions that would have them spend 100 dollars on some ugly black gown that they would only wear once, this once. Would the speech rile them up, or would it be dampened out, as so much of significance seemed to be these days? He was now going to find out.

“Those who know, those who no longer wander—they are the ones who are lost, and they shall now be put last”, began Jake, looking from left to right. Realizing that his point may not have resonated in all of his audience, he inserted: “That’s a reference to the tattoo you put on your ankle two summers ago, for those of you who I lost.”

“As an older man now, no longer a peer but perhaps old enough to be your parent, what wisdom can I offer you? I can start by saying that I’m not quite sure there is much wisdom that has come down through the ages, evidenced by the strife at every level of society, from the global, all the way down to the single individual at war with himself, herself…. otherself, other otherself. I coined quotable question, that may put it succinctly: Which is the more important lesson? Babies teaching their parents the lesson of life, or parents teaching the lesson of death, frequently with multiple examples? Many among my generation, and the older generation,” he motioned with an arm to the distinguished faculty, “we—they—like to blame your generation for the ‘moral decadence’, the ‘grotesque’ acts of confused sexuality, the cultural violence, and so on. I might be an anomaly in saying this, but the problems are far older than the youth, and in fact youthfulness is their greatest antidote. The university is not a refuge from this strife, but complicit in its elicitation. It is a collection of strategies to oppress the other of your choice—stored in brains, books, and other media. The irony is that the oppression is implicit right from when you sign the contract with the school, and like an abused victim, you go on to become a perpetrator later. I am not here to inform you of your victimization, I am here to implore you to become the generation that makes the great turn, that both sees the murderers in plain site and disarms them, dismembers them when appropriate, and not take up membership in their institutions.”

“I have a bigger point, a series of points—most of them negative—to make clearer why you should do this. What was Hitler’s age, when he planned operation Barbarossa? When he invaded Poland? When he moved to change his sick fantasy world into an actual world. Closer to home—a different sack of shit, no less evil—Harry Truman—the only human ever to decide to use an atomic weapon against people, and he did it twice, just to cement his evil legacy. How old was Obama, back in 2009, when he sold out on his campaign message and became cocksucker in chief, a douchebag just like the rest of the political world? He used our generations wind power to blow his sails. He doesn’t care that we don’t have any air now.”

“How old are generals that oversee war without generally risking their own lives? Alexander the Great conquered but did not subjugate, neither his own folk nor his enemies. His father Phillip, maybe, for he was older and more political, but he Alexander faced those he enemized directly on the field, never from a remote command center. The last thought on Alexander, the one of your age, is that though he loved war he did not use war to further other ends, he sadly and recklessly saw it as its own end, madly in love with it for it’s own sake, embodying a naiveté not yet extruded. Let’s turn to business. How old were Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling from Enron when they had and used the power to screw hundreds of people from their savings? How many more are there like them who just haven’t been caught, or who have paid off those with the nets to catch them?”

“A few good apples don’t turn a human profit out of the rotting tree of corporatism. These are your enemies, who flaunt their successes as if they are yours to share, when really they are at your expense. You’ll find that the most successful of enemies are not those that stab you in the back, no; they are those who day in day out slowly rob your energy for their own purposes. This method of slow methodical extraction of energy is so successful, that it has ideologies spouted by all forms of media to structure language to its own defense—thank you universities for teaching Karl Marx. This is a method employed largely by the mature, rather over-matured, middle aged people. Those who have learned all the subtleties to subordinating others, which is particularly useful because they have less control over their own bodies as the aging sets in. Put another way: as their fertility wanes, their appetite for destruction waxes. If only a midlife crisis was something internal that affected only the individual; no, their crisis becomes all of ours. And might I add, this is not something peculiar to western culture, this ageism that oppresses the youth is just as engrained in eastern societies, albeit in different manifestations.”

A man seated on the stage rose, his accumulated and repressed fury now evident in his snarling face. His chair squeaked, and Jake gazed over to regard him. Leaning in to the microphone, Jake decided to scold the man approaching him before he was able to pull the plug on his speech. “Sit down! How rude of you to try to interrupt. I’m lecturing now, and for once it’s something worthwhile, and here you are trying to shut me up. How many times in your aged career did somebody try to take away the stage from you? Not often enough!”

The man started to walk off the stage, bellowing: “I’ve heard enough of this non-sense, I will not take any more of it.” A few others followed him, as well as a few graduates from the crowd.

“What a convenient luxury it is to the lofty, to be able to walk out and not face any consequences, to be put on trial and be afforded the escape route,” spoke Jake eying the deserters. “It’s a show trial, to be sure, but it can have real consequences for all involved. You can burn your diplomas, and let this mill grind no more. Beat down these deans… it’s a way of honoring them. By doing so you show them that you have learned, for it is they who have used these institutions to beat the youth down, shape them into the hideous middle aged creatures that they have now become. There is no wisdom in the baby boomer generation… they are a bag of bones, their minds are more corroded than their stupidly fed diabetic bodies. There are exceptions to their rule, but we must realize that their rule is not acceptable. It has not been for a very long time, and if we are to redeem this earth, we need to loosen it from their grips. They are pathetic, and deserve to be stripped of their power by those younger and more deserving of power, because it is the youth who have the longest time left on earth, and who have this huge mountain of problems to deal with. The youth will deal more honestly with the many problems and in trying to not create new ones because they cannot just retire out of the problems. You need to be in power, not them.

“Some of you may think,” he continued, “that I am alienating a huge group of people. Do not fear, they have already alienated themselves by both their actions and in-actions. Fortunately for me, I am not a politician, and I do not want their votes. I will not stand in the way of any fires you start, and I would add that you needn’t feel guilty about any of the quote-unquote ‘damage’ you may cause. Don’t blame fire for burning, blame that which is old and dried up.

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