My Speech To The Graduating Class Of 2023

Commentary By: Dean P. Johnson, Follow South Jersey Editor-In-Chief

Since it is now obvious to me that my invitations to speak at any graduation ceremony had been lost in the mail, I shall address the speech I had written in anticipation of said invitations to all graduates of the Class of 2023.


Today you find yourself at the end of one seemingly long journey and at the beginning of an assuredly longer one.  Yet, these two journeys are far more alike than they appear.

Regardless of what you may think, regardless of low test scores, regardless of reports attacking the efficacy of public education, you, as successful graduates, now possess all the experience you ever will need to lead productive and satisfying lives.

Robert Fulcrum said that everything you ever really needed to know, you learned in kindergarten.  He was, however, only one thirteenth correct.

I know to some of you this may come off as rather depressing, but school and the rest of your life are pretty much the same; it is just we adults who change the verbiage so everything sounds much more complicated than it really is.  Take for example attendance.

Attendance is just as important in the real world as it is in school.  Poor attendance will wreak havoc with your professional as well as your social life.  Your boss never wants to see you saunter in even two minutes late.  If this by chance does occur, make sure you’re seen working at least twenty minutes past your usual time.  Much like detention, this does not serve much of a purpose aside from giving a pleasurable feeling of power to those in charge.  Never be truant from a reunion with old friends or a family wedding.  No matter how good you think your excuse is, even if you have a doctor’s note, it will never be good enough and you’ll be forevermore reminded of missing the time.

In school and life, art and music are the things that are most worthwhile, yet they are the least we tend to devote time to and they are usually the first to be cut when budget crises arise.

Life, like school, has homework.  Tons of homework.  Contrary to what anyone might lead you to believe, no one actually likes homework.  People would much rather play with their friends or their toys or their friends’ toys.  Mowing the lawn, weeding, raking, painting, unclogging toilets, fixing leaking faucets, scrapping the goo from the bottom of the trash can is homework that must be completed before there’s any recess time.  And if you neglect your homework, you will not get credit.

Credit is what you get when you do well.  Doing home improvement projects get you lots of credit that can manifest itself in many ways such as a night out with your friends.  Of course earning extra credit never hurts either, and it’s readily available.  Flowers, a non-coerced back-rub, or picking up your socks always earns points.  Ladies, try sitting through an entire sporting event with him without asking questions or nodding off.  Gentleman, stream any movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel and watch the entire movie with her without making snide comments or nodding off.  Remember, the more credit attained, the better the grade.

Like it or not, we are all graded on a daily basis.  If it isn’t an evaluation at work, it’s the neighbors looking at your porch that needs painting or your car that needs washing.  But it’s not only your grades that take you to the head of the class.  To be successful, you must always be prepared:  Never go to a meeting without a writing instrument even if you have nothing to write down, it looks impressive; always do your math in pencil, as any accountant will tell you 2+2 does not always equal 4; always check your answers, even when you are confident that you are one hundred percent right, you still may be wrong; take good notes, there is always a test afterwards; memorize your facts, corporate America loves trivia; spelling counts, especially names; don’t eat or chew gum while working, you’ll eventually get called on in mid-chew; and to let everyone know just how hard you are working, it is important to always show all your work.

It is society’s principles that lead you through your daily schedules and guide you in the right direction, and trouble may send you right to the vices.  You see, it’s all very much like Salisbury steak.

Salisbury steak appears regularly on school lunch menus.  The meal sounds regal enough for a king:  Salisbury steak — a generous portion of prime tender meat smothered in thick, rich gravy.  However, as every graduate of public school knows, Salisbury steak is nothing but a hamburger with an identity crisis.  You can make the ground meat of your life into anything you want:  a loaf, patty, sloppy Joe, meatball, or a steak.

And that, my dear young friends, is the essence of life:  Salisbury steak.

Thank you, and good luck Class of 2023.

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