And then I had this strange dream, explaining why “It’s all about me” is not a good subject for a graduation speech.
It was a large auditorium, normally used as a sports arena. Perhaps half a thousand students filled the center area.
We had talked – toward a dozen of them and I, briefly, for twenty minutes before the ceremonies began. All of them were excited – an artificial adrenalin rush. Sadly, they were unaware that for many of them, perhaps the majority, this was the last time in their lives that they would receive any form of public acknowledgement for an achievement.
In my dream I’m wearing the traditional graduation robe. Unusual colors adorn the sash around my neck – colors representing the two schools of higher education through which I had barely managed to squeak.
A black girl – one of the students – is taking pictures. She’s wearing a shiny blue party dress under her robe. She’s barefoot, creating a more endearing picture than the ones she’s taking.
All impressions are fleeting, a merry-go-round of activities at the edge of vision, a brief turn … and then gone.
I am standing at the podium. It’s suddenly warm. I have the impression that all eyes are focused in my general direction. I see a flash of shiny blue from the third row. Comforting.
“Class of 2008, congratulations.” The sound of my own voice booming back at me comes as a brief shock. Looking out, I’m painfully aware that if I was as wise as the occasion suggests, I’d quit now and go home. At least half the attendees have already mentally dismissed me, rightly dwelling on the parties that would extend well into the night.
Fool that I was, I continued. “I remember well my own graduation,” I stated. “The theme that year was ‘At the Crossroads.”
Inwardly I smiled. I alone knew what was coming.
“When I reached that crossroad, I turned in the wrong direction. I blew it. I blew it for me, and I blew it for you.”
Now there was quiet in the auditorium.
“I mean, look around,” I continued. “We have global warming, energy prices have gone up because sources are running out, weather conditions are getting worse, the ice caps are melting, the economy is almost ruined, and almost every country in the world hates us – pardon me – hates you.”
“I knew the fuel shortage was coming. I saw it coming forty years ago, and what did I do? I gave you the I POD. I did that.”
I paused, wondering if they knew about the concept of tar and feathers.
“And here’s the good part. I’m responsible for the mess, but I’m not going to pay for it. I’m simply going to walk away – not my problem. And I taught the next generation (the “me” generation) to do the same thing.”
“So here we are at your generation,” I concluded. “But don’t worry. There’s maybe just enough left for you to sail past the point of no return in ease and relative comfort. Take what you want and split. You’re welcome to follow the example I set for you. And don’t worry. No matter HOW selfish you are, the world will likely not destroy humanity until at least fifty or sixty years after you’re gone. Why should you care? I didn’t.”
And then I woke up. And for a long time I thought about that dream. For a long time I wondered why nobody ever told the truth to graduation classes. And all the time I knew the answer. It’s why nobody has ever asked me to speak to a graduation class …
On my own, with all of my falls.
3 years ago