Members of the Board of Education, Superintendent Felmlee, Principal Van Deven, High School Faculty and Staff, Friends and Family, and last but not least, Members of the Class of 2020;
Good afternoon. Today is the 30th anniversary of my high school graduation, and as such, it is also the 30th year in a row in which I was NOT asked to be the featured speaker at a commencement ceremony. Hell bent on revenge for this egregious slight, I conspired with the mainstream media, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Democratic party to concoct a hoax about a global pandemic with the hope that all high school and college graduations would be cancelled. I am happy to report that my plan was a complete success.
Actually, I came up with the coronavirus hoax as an elaborate ruse designed to free-up some time on my calendar for re-reading the 2,000-page Twilight saga. For the record, I was always Team Edward. Always. Jacob was just too immature for an old soul like Bella. Anyone could see that. Coincidentally, graduates, I finished reading the last page of the four-book series on the very day your commencement was originally scheduled to take place. #sorrynotsorry #teamedwardalltheway
Now is the point in an address such as this when the speaker typically says, “But seriously…” Well, I’m not your typical speaker, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it up to here with seriousness lately. The real reasons for cancelling your commencement are deadly serious and well documented, so I see no reason to waste another minute on being serious right now.
Now is a time to celebrate. You just completed a thirteen-year academic career. For many people, being a K-12 student is the longest career they will ever have. In the three decades since my graduation, the longest continuous period of time in which I’ve worked in one field has been eight years. The culmination of thirteen years’ worth of work deserves a celebration.
While social distancing is still being recommended by health experts, you should probably avoid having a big party with dozens of guests packed tightly together in a poorly ventilated area with copious amounts of inhibition-killing intoxicants on hand. In other words, no keggers at your parents’ house while they’re out of town for the weekend. (Not that I would know anything about something like that taking place in a house on West Ely Road in Hannibal, Missouri, in May of 1990.)
It is important to find safe ways to celebrate and unwind. The morning after my graduation, I met up with a couple of my best friends to do some fishing. With the formalities of commencement behind us, we were able to relax and truly enjoy the first day of the rest of our lives. In a few months, we would all be going our separate ways as college and the armed forces called our names, but on that warm spring morning, we didn’t have a care in the world. We told stories, drowned some worms, and laughed until our bellies ached.
If the past two months have taught us anything, it’s that we should embrace the opportunity to slow down a little and appreciate the simple pleasures we have in our lives. In the fall, many of you will be going off to college or technical school. Some of you will be starting new jobs, new careers. Now is your chance to spend some quality time with your closest friends and family members, even if you have to do so while wearing a mask and standing six feet apart. Thirty years from now, you will be so glad you did.
If I have learned anything in life, it’s that teenagers love receiving unsolicited advice from their elders. They practically live for it. And they always heed the words of wisdom they never asked to hear in the first place. I’m sure that you, the Class of 2020, are no exception. So, I will leave you with this final nugget of knowledge: Enjoy today to the absolute fullest, my young friends, because one day, when you are a tired 48-year-old like me, you will be able to conjure up a treasured memory of your first summer of adulthood, and you will smile. And in that priceless moment, you will be happy.
Congratulations, Southern Boone High School Class of 2020.