I Ain’t No Graduation Speaker

John W. Pinkerton


I’ve never been invited to be a graduation speaker.  For that matter, I’ve never been invited to be the speaker at any event.  My wife, Linda, has been invited to speak to a group.  People like Linda: me, not so much.

Now, I’m glad I wasn’t  invited…kind of.  First of all, I’m not much of a public speaker, and second, I’m not sure what  I’d say.  But, on the other hand, it would have been nice to have been invited, but as I said,  Linda is universally liked and I’m not.

I vaguely recall the graduation speaker at my high school graduation.  I think he owned a furniture business.  Frankly, he should have stuck to selling furniture.


I missed out on my BA graduation at LSU and my MA graduation at A&M.  I didn’t attend the LSU graduation because of the expense involved…the same reason I didn’t purchase a ring.  I didn’t attend my MA graduation at A&M because it just seemed silly.  Same thing for a ring.

Whoever the speakers were is of no consequence to me.  I doubt that my fate would have been any different if I had heard their words.

I’m not sure how the idea originated that a graduation ceremony requires a speaker.  Perhaps it began as an effort to give some gravitas to the ceremony.

Some folks, apparently, have made a pretty good effort in delivering really good graduation addresses.  I found on the internet a list of the top ten most inspirational graduation speeches.  The speakers were
a diverse group: Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emory University, 2010; Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon University; Michael Dell, University of Texas at Austin, 2003; Bono, University of Pennsylvania, 2004;  JK Rowling, Harvard, 2008; Ellen Degeneres, Tulane University, 2009; Bill Gates, Harvard, 2007; Oprah Winfrey, Stanford University, 2008; and Larry Page, University of Michigan, 2009.  Not a single furniture salesman in the group.  If you’re interested, you can go to 10 Powerful and Inspiring Graduation Speeches You Don’t Want To Miss.”

If you are a graduation speaker, you should understand that you have a tough audience to address: the young people just want to get the heck out of Dodge;  the parents just want to hug their kids; and the academics have been there, done that.

Thinking about graduation speeches has caused me to wonder what the heck I’d say if I were ever invited.

I’ve got it!  I would begin with, “Don’t screw up.”  On second thought, that’s all I would say---“Don’t screw up.”  Yeah, I guess I understand why I haven’t been invited to be a graduation speaker.



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