Commencement

Up out of the Bunker Archives – 2004

This time of year I keep a speech folded up in the back pocket of my Levis just in case I’m asked to give one.  Not surprisingly, I wasn’t asked again this year.  I may not get another chance, so I’m giving the speech to you.  I promise it’s a short one.  Problem is, the paper is worn out and creased, the ink is faded and there are holes in it.  I can’t read it, so I’ll wing it.  Ahem…

Some of you worked hard and achieved much while here.  Because of your drive and desire to achieve, you’ll probably do well.  Don’t however, be too full of yourselves.  You may be educated, but the guy that picks up your garbage, polices your streets, defends your country and changes the oil in your car knows more about life now than you’re likely to learn anytime soon.  He or she protects our country and keeps it working and moving.  They matter.  Keep them in mind while using your education, freedom and talents to make our country better.

Some of you cheated and manipulated your way through school.  The party is over; life begins now.  Your first employer will discover that you lack the basic skills your credentials imply you have.  You’ll always be several steps behind those who worked hard while here.  If you deal with your shortcomings, you may claw your way up to the lower rung of middle management – maybe mailroom supervisor.  You’ll be angry most of your life – probably a drunk who binge drinks like a frat boy.  You’ll blame everyone for your situation.  You’ll grow kids in your image.  There is probably not a reserved parking space in your future.

Some of you are so good at cheating and manipulating that you can convince most anyone that you were responsible for most everything that’s good.  You’ve done it and will continue to do it so often that you’ll start believing it yourself.  You should consider sales or politics.

Now that I have you off and running into your careers, I have some other thoughts to share with you.

Nobody owes you anything.  If fact, it is you that owes.  You owe your parents, your country and the literal thousands that contributed to you being where you are.  You do realize that you had help?

Mom and Dad have given you enough.  Leave home.  Move out.  Earn your own way.  Remember Mom on Mother’s Day.  Call her occasionally and visit at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  That’s enough.  Leave them alone, they need time to remodel your room and spend your inheritance.

Political correctness destroyed candor for your generation.  You’ll be noticed if you have the courage to call a football bat what it is.  Some will dislike you for doing it, but having the courage to be honest and candid feels good.

Appearance counts, but so does character.  Unless you’re going to be an actor, professional athlete or rock/rap star, tattoos and body piercing may be a problem for you.  As is black nail polish, orange hair, split tongues and teeth jewelry.

Don’t show up to your first job interview with either your belly-button exposed or half of your butt hanging out of your trousers.  The person that’s hiring you is hiring a representative of his or her company.  Pierced belly-buttons and exposed buttocks probably isn’t the image they seek.

And Dude.  If you don’t speak English now, learn.  Hear what I’m sayin’?

Outward appearance is important, but how concerned are you with what’s inside you– your moral, ethical and spiritual self?  This is what others see more so than your physical appearance.  This is your character.  Character endures.  Outward appearances do not.

Become a citizen of the United States rather than a resident – a participant rather than a benefactor.  Understand issues, be informed, and then vote.  If you can’t do the first two don’t do the last.  Otherwise, you’ll cancel the vote of someone who does understand and is informed.

Everyday requires you to make choices.  They’re more significant than what you will wear today and what party you’ll attend this weekend.  Choices come with consequences.  Consider the consequences.

Also, question the logic.  Smoking is bad.  It might kill you and harm innocent others.  Aborting babies, however, is freedom of choice.  We glorify homosexuality on prime time television, but are horrified at the exposure of a female breast.

You hear a lot of negativism about America.  Actually, most of what you read, hear and see about America is negative.  Many are quick to point out what is wrong with America rather than what is right with it.  Even our friends from other countries blame America for their misfortunes.  Before you join the blame America campaign, do something.  Pick a country, any country.  Then ask:  Has this country given more to America than has America to it?  How many American citizens live in that country compared to the number of their citizens who choose to live here.  If America is so bad, why do people risk their lives everyday just to come here and live?

Today’s world is like an episode of Star Wars.  It’s the good force versus the evil dark side.  There is no in between.  There is no acceptable compromise.  We will either win or lose.  Choose sides wisely.

Sixty years ago today, America and its allies invaded German occupied France across the beaches of Normandy.  Their task was to liberate Europe and save the world from Nazi tyranny. In that single day, there were more than 4,000 casualties.  In the war to save the world from Japanese and Nazi domination, more than 400,000 Americans gave their lives.  The surviving veterans of the war came home and built the strongest and freest nation the world has ever known.  Because of what they endured and achieved during their lives, they’re often called America’s Greatest Generation.

Today, we face a treacherous enemy also bent on world domination.  It’s a much different and more dangerous enemy because we can’t fix it to our front and overwhelm it.  Since we engaged this war three years ago, we’ve suffered fewer casualties than in a single day of the last world war.  Still at question is American will to continue the fight.  The deepest threat to civilization since the Nazis is counting on your lack of will.  Your contribution to corporations, grand inventions or political achievements will not define your generation.  It’s your collective answer to the single question – Is America worth fighting for? – that will.  How will history remember your generation?

© 2004 J. D. Pendry