Dear Graduates

05.24.14

Class of 2014, Prepare to Be Powerless

On this big day, what’s the use in listening to someone you agree with? Not a rhetorical question.

Dear Graduates of the Class of 2014,

Screw you.

If there’s one thing I hope you take away from my commencement address this morning, it’s that.

Screw. You.

There are two reasons I began my speech that way. One, I knew it gave me the best chance this’d go viral. Has it yet? I’ll wait a moment ‘til someone lets me know.

[PAUSE FOR RESPONSE]

It has? Cool. I’m counting on you to let me know when it gets to Charlie Day numbers.

And two, because I honestly mean it: Screw. You.

In a sense, you’re already screwed. Because you thought you had control over who addressed you on this fine occasion. You collected signatures. Signed petitions. Held sit-ins. Got the word out. Not her. No way him. Do you know what she did? Haven’t you heard what he said that one time about that thing?

Well, joke’s on you. Because I, your speaker this morning, wasn’t invited to speak to you this morning. Nope. I just showed up. I pulled a Kanye and jumped up on stage, unsolicited and unashamed.

What choice did I have, really? After how you’ve treated Christine LaGarde and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Condoleeza Rice—formally inviting them and then informally shaming them enough that they wanted to spare themselves, and you, any further embarrassment—I guess I just realized that springing myself on you like this was my best shot at grabbing the podium and saying a few words. Hell, I don’t even have a clue which college I’m speaking to right now, but I figured, you know nothing about me, why should I learn about you? So again, let me say it’s a true honor to not be invited to speak to you this morning, graduates of Whatever University.

The reason you will someday change your mind is because you encounter a thought from some other mind that changes your mind. Even from someone you think is out of her mind.

Let’s be honest. You had never heard of me until I leapt up here and introduced myself. Hell, I just realized I forgot to introduce myself. But that’s okay. If I had, you would be Googling me right now. And you’d be learning—well, not learning, but you know, accessing facts—that I once worked for someone who said something controversial about something about 9/11. So you’d want to give me the hook too. In fact, I see that a few of you out there are circulating a petition. Well…too late, suckas! I mean, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. And I’m not going anywhere until I say this:

Applying an ideological litmus test for commencement speakers is not a good idea. Though in fairness, I don’t know what a litmus test is. A chemistry professor once tried to tell me, but I hated him too much to listen to what he had to say.

What’s the use in listening to someone you agree with? Not a rhetorical question. I’m actually asking that, so that I can answer it for you. So it’s more of a metorical question. And here we go: In the days ahead, there will be times you’ll be tempted to change your mind. There will be times you should change your mind. And the reason you will have changed your mind is not because you set your mind to changing your mind. It will be because you encountered a thought from some other mind that changes your mind. Even from someone you think is out of her mind.

So why did you disinvite the previous 29 speakers before me?

One theory I’ve heard is that this is the last chance you have to evince control over your small campus before entering the big one. But if you’re so smart—and judging by the caps and gowns, I’m gonna make that presumption—wouldn’t the smarter move be to relinquish your tight hold on your power, to ease your transition to powerlessness? As someone who gave up long ago, it seems to me that’s your challenge here today. Be the father who slowly lets go of his son’s bike seat. Be the mother who stops monitoring her daughters Facebook posts. Don’t be the Donald Sterling who says we can take his Clippers from his cold, dead hands.

Give it a try. Don’t be frozen. Let it go.

On this day, Graduate, don’t hyperventilate. Rather, let me put that in terms you can understand  #graduatedonthyperventilate.

Now mind you, I’m no party pooper. When I realized I hadn’t been invited to speak here, I considered not showing up, so as to keep the focus on the graduates and to not mar what should be a joyous moment to honor the great accomplishments of blah blah blah. Honestly, I considered that. But then I thought: I’ll let Lagarde and Ali and Rice be the classier ones.

Not me. Not today. They way I figure it, Puff Daddy got to speak. Tiger’s ex-wife got to speak. The guy from It’s Always Sunny got to speak. (Kanye didn’t get to speak, and even he got to speak.) So I’m gonna speak. And on behalf of the voiceless, the unwelcome, the disinvited—those who dared have a contrary thing to say— let me just say:

Dear graduates, on this, your graduation day, I invite you to keep growing. I invite you to embrace the unknown. I invite you to live life to its fullest. Unless I disagree with you, then I hereby disinvite you from all that fullest-life-living-unknown-embracing-growing stuff.

And screw you. Screw you all very much.