You know, I almost got away with it.
Thanks to my passable impression of Barack Obama on the phone, I had talked my way into giving a commencement address at UC Santa Cruz. I figured they would only find out about my deception at the last minute when it’s too late to book anyone else, and what’s a little high-profile embarrassment (and possible arrest for fraud) weighed against the experience to pass on my hard-won wisdom to the next generation?
But, alas, I was foiled by some suspicious person at UCSC who decided to “authenticate” my identity with one of those trick questions. Honestly, how was I supposed to know the man’s middle name is Hussein? I don’t remember hearing anything about that during the campaign, did you?
So, I was busted. Still, I had my speech all ready, and I present it here to a wider audience. Graduates, feel free to download my address to whatever device you’ll be carrying under your robe and read along during the blah-blah-blah of whatever gasbag has been hired to “inspire” you. It’s called “commencement hacking.” Trust me, everybody’s doing it. Here goes:
Thank you, and congratulations, Class of 2009.
I know what you’re thinking. I know what the foremost question in your mind is, as you contemplate on this lovely day an exciting, exhilarating future:
Who’s this bozo?
Well, the important question is not who I am, but who I am not. I am not, for instance, part of that older generation that is bequeathing you a world that looks like a frat house the morning after Kid Rock’s bachelor party. Seriously, I’ve spent the last 30 years living on mung beans and rice in a New Zealand monastery. I’m not responsible, OK? So, there’s no need to key my car in the parking lot.
But, I hear you. I feel your rage at finally arriving on the scene only to find an economy picked clean like a supermarket in a hurricane zone. I understand your ire when you’re told you’ll have to return to the spartan virtues your forebears abandoned in the name of Hummers and plasma screens. That big ugly dude at the door is the Piper and he’s looking to get paid.
You know how it works in this great nation of ours. Ever since the California gold rush, we’ve operated on a boom-and-bust economic cycle. That’s just how we roll, y’all. Find it, exploit it, bleed it, throw it away. That’s the real translation of “E Plurbis Unum,” you know.
Now, we’ve hit on the Mother of All Busts, just in time for you to send out those first resumes. The pirates in Armani suits have made away with your future. The economy has flatlined, the housing market’s a joke, two wars, global warming, you know the rest.
So, Class of ’09, what are you going to do about being handed the pizza crusts of the American Pie? First off, let’s look at the bright side.
Jobs? Don’t believe the naysayers. There’s lots of jobs out there. Paychecks, though, they’re hard to come by.
Change? Real, lasting change has come to the country, and I’m not talking about last fall’s election. The stigma of living in your parent’s basement, for instance, has almost evaporated in the last few months. Driving a Honda Civic older than Hannah Montana is now chic. That’s change we can believe in.
But here’s the real good news. You can make that righteous generational rage work for you. The old-timers, the baby boomers, the Gen-Xers, heck, anyone old enough to remember the O.J. Trial, this mess is on us – I mean, them. You may have benefited by riding in top-of-the-line Swedish baby strollers bought on credit. But generally speaking, they got the gold, you got the shaft.
That means that you don’t have to sit there and listen to their “wisdom” anymore. You might have to clean up their mess, but you don’t have to work out of their playbook. Everything’s open for re-evaluation. And that’s very freeing. The next time you’re cornered with a half-baked remembrance of Creedence at the Fillmore, or a lecture on what Rush said this morning, you can walk away and feel good about it. This is how revolutions begin, people.
So, my advice to you, Class of ’09, is to not listen to my advice. Play on the guilt of your elders. Don’t let anyone forget that you got punked, generationally speaking. Lay down the foundation of a new way of doing things. Figure out things among yourselves. Start businesses, make contacts, meet in your parents’ basement to map out a new way of life that doesn’t involve rapacious behavior.
And if all goes well, soon you’ll be up in the main house. And Mom and Dad will be down in the basement.
Now, please don’t hurt me.
You know, I almost got away with it.