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Article Archive >> Community

Voices in My Head: Commencement Speaker

Voices in My Head
Commencement Speaker

Last summer my wife and I had to endure yet another college graduation of a family member. The weather was hot, the ceremony was boring and the commencement speaker lost everyone's interest within the first two minutes. I think I figured out the problem.
Most higher education institutions, including the one I graduated from try and secure a speaker who has either found success after graduating from college or found fame and fortune from some other avenue. While these speakers are impressive in their own right I don't think they are motivational to the majority of kids who are embarking on their future career.
I think what colleges and universities should do is hire someone who is down on their luck, maybe even homeless. This person can describe to the students how they got there and what steps can be taken to avoid the same fate.
Today I can't even remember who spoke at my commencement ceremony. I remember some story about what he did during the sixties and the Vietnam War, something about networking with other professionals and I remember sweating so badly that I couldn't wait to change my underwear.
If my school had hired for example, someone who had graduated college but lost all his money, family and friends then my eyes would have been glued to the stage. Throw in a drug addiction, maybe a short stay in prison and I would have been taking notes. It's kind of like those television shows where authorities bring troubled youths to prison for a day to scare them straight. I know if I had to watch a homeless, ex-con-addict tell his story I would want to go out and get a job as quickly as possible. Instead we listen to some blowhard millionaire tell us a distorted truth about how we too can change the world alone. Save it. I'm married, on the verge of a mid life crisis and now know better.
My method would also be doing a justice for the homeless guy. He would get paid to speak at the commencement, probably get a free meal and then could stay in one of the dormitories for the night (after he showered of course).
Come to think of it, this may be a good idea for a reality television show. We've all seen Survivor and the Apprentice and watched as some lucky individual who wins the contest and makes hundreds of thousands of dollars. This isn't even close to "reality". What the television networks should create if they want to show true reality is a family who has trouble making ends meet, one child on the verge of a nervous breakdown, another child pregnant at twelve years old, the father cheating on the mom and the mother trying desperately to hold the family together. At least this way television audiences can feel good about themselves and the family they live in. When I watch someone win a million dollars I take a look around my house and get depressed. Why can't I have what that lucky stiff just won? If I watch my show about dysfunctional families and people with problems then I'll be happy about the state of affairs in my own household.
If colleges can't get homeless people to speak then they should at least get someone who never went to school and can't read. After that guy struggles through a written speech all the parents in the audience would at least feel the exorbitant price of tuition is justified.

Artie Leary can be reached at artieleary@gmail.com

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