Dear Class of 2017,
It all started 18 years ago with sunscreen and a guy named Baz.
I realize some of you graduates may not have been born 18 years ago. That’s my first lesson for you today — time flies fast as you become adults. Get ready for it. You can’t stop time. Or rewind it. But it’s up to you to press the pause button occasionally.
Eighteen springs ago, a spoken-word song by this guy named Baz called “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen),” also known as “The Sunscreen Song” was on the car radio nonstop.
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It started in a newspaper. The song was an adaptation of an essay written as a hypothetical commencement speech by columnist Mary Schmich, originally published in June 1997 in the Chicago Tribune. The essay gave various pieces of simple advice on how to live a happier life and avoid common frustrations. Often it was described as a commencement speech given by author Kurt Vonnegut at MIT. Wrong. Never happened.
The Baz Luhrmann song was basic, simple advice. Some people felt it was deep and inspirational. I got a kick from it. So forever a smart aleck, so I started writing annual commencement addresses to graduates. Very simple advice. My response was always something like. “I was a C student. No one will ever ask me to speak at a commencement address. So here goes ... in case you are desperate and need one.”
Here we go, 2017 grads.
Here are some simple pieces of advice that I’ve shared over the years. It may help you make some wise choices in your lives after graduation. I’ll never be a commencement speaker. That’s OK. But I am an example that you don’t have to a star on graduation day to do OK in life.
▪ Say “please” and “thank you.” Kindness will get you a lot further in life than rudeness.
▪ Get along with others. I think about successful people that I know and have worked alongside. They have a common link. They get along with others. If you are one of those guys who no one wants to be around or work with, you won’t advance or be around long. Unless you own the business.
▪ Thank your parents. They won’t be here forever. Someday, you’ll be older like me, and you’d give anything to have just a few more moments with Mom and Dad. Give your Mom a hug today, on her day. No texts. Hugs and words. From your hearts.
▪ Be proud of your roots. Your old grade school. Old neighborhoods and schools. Old teachers and coaches. Old friends. They have helped make you who you are today.
▪ Read the instructions. Take time to do it right the first time. Throw away the box. Hold onto the papers inside.
▪ Don’t talk about — or post — personal opinions about politics and religion. Nobody cares, really.
▪ Dance like everybody’s watching. Because they are watching. Maybe laughing a little. But they’re sitting and you’re dancing. It’s up to you to care or not care.
▪ Always stand for the National Anthem. If you choose not to stand, for whatever reasons, this is America and you have your rights. But expect to be chastised by others who don’t agree with you and take it personal. That’s their right, too.
▪ Sing aloud when you feel like it and it’s appropriate. But don’t try to imitate Adam Levine. You will sound foolish. Someone will laugh. You will never sing aloud again.
▪ Remember: Somebody always remembers! That embarrassing moments you hope fade and everyone forgets? They won’t. You will be hearing about them decades later from now. That’s what old friends are for — humbleness.
▪ Those old nicknames? They are yours forever. When you least expect it, someone will yell across the room, “Hey Meat Man.”
▪ Watch your language in public. Remember — someone is always listening. You build your reputation gradually. Watch your language and behavior in a public setting. Tonight, they’re the couple at the corner table minding their own business. Tomorrow, they’re your job interviewer. People remember the loud cussers.
▪ Never forget how to laugh at yourself. Or others will be laughing at you.
▪ Be loyal to your home teams. Through good years and bad years, they’re your team. Be a real fan. You can be disappointed in them. But they’re your team.
▪ Always shoot for an A grade. But remember a C is fine, as long as you did your best. A “C” was my “A” in any class related to math or science.
▪ Take your medicine. Yes, it can happen to you, If you are lucky like me, you’ll get a second chance. But don’t tempt it. In the game of life, not everyone is lucky.