A look at the least important things in life

Graduation could be better

It’s that time of year. If you have a loved one between the ages of 6 and 27, chances are excellent you’re going to be asked to go to a graduation of some kind during the month of May.

Obviously I would never try to tell anyone that their graduation is not important. It’s a milestone, whether you’re graduating kindergarten, high school, college, cosmetology school, whatever… you set out and successfully accomplished a goal, learned some lessons and are a better person for it. My congratulations in this regard are absolutely sincere.

I’ve attended at least two graduations a year since I was 17 years old. Bare minimum, that’s now 16 graduations. Each one follows this exact timeline:

People file in while music is played (I’ve always felt the Imperial March from Star Wars should be played for this.)… someone makes a speech that takes far too long; it’s usually preachy… someone else says they’ll try to keep their remarks brief; they don’t… either before or after the actual conferring of degrees, a member of the class will speak. He/she talks more than is necessary, congratulating and thanking and doing all the things the graduates themselves would be doing if they weren’t forced to listen to this blowhard pontificate into a microphone. In a collegiate setting, 84 percent* of the graduating class will never have met this person who wants to congratulate them on a personal level for this achievement… the graduates, because they want to leave so they can eat/drink/get a cookie/start work, sprint through their one shining moment after months/years of hard work… someone else makes closing remarks that are too damn long… graduates exit stage left; in grade school, the honorees may have outgrown their robes by this time.

*- As ever, all numbers approximate

What everyone should understand is that this is a day for two groups: the people being honored and their families that have supported them through the years. And with extremely rare exception, they don’t care to spend three hours of that time watching other people talk.

So what would I do to turn graduation ceremonies into a more fun affair? I’m glad I asked. Here are a handful of items I believe would make a huge difference if implemented on graduation day:

  • Assign one guy whose sole job is to introduce people. Not to introduce people by reading their resumes before a live audience, but to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome ___________”. That’s it. If he even thinks about honoring someone for their philanthropic work with the Boys and Girls Economics Club of Upper Harlem from 2001-04, he gets Tasered.
  • Since the first rule will never happen, the least these speakers could do is try to be somewhat humorous. I realize you probably didn’t get all those advanced degrees after your name because you know a lot of hilarious dick jokes, but it won’t kill you to punch it up a bit.
  • One speaker. You can make it a Valedictorian/Class President-type, or you can bring in someone to speak and pay them to do it. But this is not Little League; not everyone gets a chance to talk during this time.
  • If you bring in a speaker, he damn sure better have something to do with the school or class he’s speaking to. Don’t give me a name just because he’s a name; odds are excellent the entire audience will be checking messages the entire time he speaks anyway.
  • No preaching. No matter who gets to speak, it’s not the time for them to step up on their soap box and let the world know what they’re passionate about. Keep your politics to yourself.
  • For the graduates, keep it classy. Ladies, it’s probably not the time to show too much skin. Guys, maybe a shave and a haircut would be appropriate things to consider.

I’m not just putting it on the participants, either. It’s our responsibility in the audience to behave in a semi-responsible manner. Now, if the blowhard onstage has been droning on for 15 minutes without taking a breath, you can whip out the smartphone and play blackjack or the Game of Life or Candy Crush Saga til your fingers bleed.

But if your kid is crying, well A.) Two hours is a little over a child’s attention span, maybe this was a bad idea in the first place and B.) TAKE THEM OUTSIDE. It’s a graduation, not the zoo or a Madonna concert, although the crying would be more understandable then. But you should probably, to put it politely, shut your doom-spawn up so the rest of us can think about steak and shoe shopping and beer in peace.

(Some people are against those that cheer too loudly during what’s a happy but solemn ceremony. I have no opinion unless those people are sitting behind me – which they always are – but in general, I don’t care. Part of graduating is having your family member’s cause an embarrassing disturbance in the audience when your name is read aloud.)

I felt bad when people came and sat through my graduation. It was long, and boring. All of these are long and boring. However, I always feel 10 times better about being in the audience. I can get up and leave, go walk around and get some fresh air or grab something from a vending machine. I have dozens of apps that I can waste hours using if I so choose. And I can wear whatever I want and not suffocate in a robe that’s either a size too small or four sizes too big (it’s always four sizes too big).

But if you’re the graduate, you’re a little bit screwed. You just sit there, in your robes, waiting for the old people to shut up so you can get your $40,000 piece of paper. You can’t Twitter, or Instagram (‘LULZ, the non-trad in front of me is old! #gradproblems #margs #oldpeople’) or do anything except think about what you’d rather be doing and really, that’s most of what you did during school anyway.


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