Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dear Guests, Graduates, And My Probation Officer...

Thank you Chancellor, distinguished guests, proud parents and family members, fellow alums, my probation officer, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, and most of all thank you, the newest crop of graduates.
It is a pleasure and honor to be here today, though the flight was tough. I just flew in from Vegas and boy are my arms tired!

No, that’s just a little commencement humor. Ha! Seriously, great to be here. Better than being in jail. Or in Russia. Same thing, right? Where are my geography and history majors? There you are! Nice to see you two.

I congratulate you because I know how hard you’ve worked to get here. Well, I don’t know from personal experience and all, but I can imagine. Just getting those square hats and tassels to stick to your heads long enough to get a diploma today is a testament to your ingenuity and persistence. And talent with bobby pins. I’m impressed.

Your administration, ill-informed but well-meaning, has asked me to speak today in hopes you’ll be inspired. After all, if I can get a job, you can, right?

Lessons learned from my experience are both timeless and proven. Also simple. Some of it you will not believe until you’ve tried, and failed. No problem; it’s called being human.

But remember what John Wayne said: Life is hard. It’s harder if you’re stupid. Don’t overdo tempting fate. The world loves to chew up people who insist on having self-induced brain cramps.
Don’t spit into the wi
nd. If you’re a cowboy, drink upstream from the herd. If you’re a plumber, don’t bite your fingernails. Bet a home dog on Monday Night Football, and if you’re in a plane, wear a seatbelt. Muhammad Ali once told a stewardess, Superman don’t need no seatbelt. But the stewardess then told The Greatest, Superman don’t need no airplane. Know you’re limitations.

Don’t scoff at the simplicity of “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Compound interest is a beautiful thing. Granted, a penny saved is hard to do, especially if you have children, if you like to eat, and if the transmission goes out on your car.

But mainly – and I wish I’d have accepted this several years and tens of thousands of dollars ago – know that life is difficult. For the prince and the pauper, it’s a tough row to hoe. Not everything is an Orioles-Red Sox game in September. Not everything is your favorite TV show or CD or Sunday dinner or vacation. I used to think that if things weren’t funny, I must be doing something wrong. Very depressing.

But a rule here is that not everything IS funny, or easy. Each of us is always heading into, coming out of, or in the middle of a violent life storm. How do we react? There’s your moment of truth. Learning how to put those fires out, knowing they’re part of the game. Nothing’s wrong with you if “bad” things happen. Just means you’re human.

There are no secrets. Simply, life will put you through the meat grinder. Expect it, and you aren’t perpetually surprised and disturbed. Then instead of getting ground up, you can grind it out. Make every inning, every game count. Never give an at-bat away.

You’re today’s starting pitcher. Until this moment, it’s all been warm-ups. The game starts now.