Ah, graduations. I still remember mine very vividly. In kindergarten I was not allowed to approach the cake table until the principal finished pontificating about the responsibilities that were now thrust upon my small shoulders and the need for me to make the world a better place in which to live. I must have done a pretty good job because when the ceremony was over, the world did become a better place in which I live - I was given a chocolate malomar.My elementary school graduation ceremony was a total disaster. There weren't any malomars. While the principal was emoting about my additional responsibilities, the students passed around those ignoble autograph books. I remember one pearl of wisdom inscribed in mine. "To Alex - You stink!"In middle school, no malomars either, but the nuggets of wisdom inscribed to me were more sophisticated. "To Alex - You still stink! And your pimples are treatable, but your personality is not." I was glad to get out of there alive.At my college commencement ceremony, it certainly was no fun, either. I had to listen to a commencement speaker rant on about more responsibilities no one mentioned in previous ceremonies. I asked the gabber what were some of the obstacles a commencement speaker usually faces? He replied, "spitballs." My graduation ceremonies mercifully came to an end and I ran out to buy a box of malomars.I know I am capable of giving an inspirational speech also, if asked. Coincidentally, I just happened to have a commencement address ready, in case. And readers, thank you for asking. But, puhleeze, no passing around of autograph books, save your applause until the end, and ... no spitballs:Graduates, I am pleased and privileged to be here today, honoring the class of 2005, on this, your day of days. Graduation is one of the five great milestones of life. The others are birth, marriage, death and the day you finally pay off your student loan.It is customary for a commencement speaker to be a great and wise person (of which I am), and to offer you sage advice on what lies ahead in life for such splendid and fortunate young people as yourselves. I will begin by offering this sapient (look the word up in the dictionary), uplifting piece of advice, particularly for the menfolk, to remember and cherish throughout life - be sure to wear an athletic supporter when doing uplifting work, especially after the age of 30.It is not by accident that your completion of four intense and rewarding years is called a commencement. It is the beginning of your lives as independent, educated citizens of this nation and the world. Education is a wonderful thing. It teaches you to worry about things in this nation and all over the world you wouldn't worry about if you hadn't gone to college.As I gaze out at your sea of shining faces...uh, oh, I see one of you wearing last year's Spiderman T-shirt. That's definitely not fashionable for college graduates ... As I was saying, I feel certain that you will fill that future to the brim with the distinguished gifts and talents that are so very much uniquely yours. An ancient philosopher (I think it was Andy Rooney) once said, "Old men dream dreams; young men see visions." What lesson can we take, from this senior citizen of long ago? I believe his quotation permits all to dream the impossible dream (like winning the lottery), to be all that you can be (pitching for the New York Mets), to empower yourselves (by eating your spinach) , to get in touch with your inner selves (never forgetting to call your mother), to feel each other's pain (watching a Giants' football game), all the while looking out for No. 1 (you).In addition, to know no boundaries (where does Queens end and Long Island begin?), to not stop thinking about tomorrow (even when you have to visit your mother-in-law), to explore new worlds (traveling through the ethnic communities in Queens) and to boldly go forth where no one has ever gone before (Staten Island).This much is obvious, if you are anything like I was at your age, you feel a mixture of hope and apprehension, partly because you aren't sure how much longer my speech is going to go on. When you leave your parents' homes and venture forth into the world, I hope you will reflect back on what happened here, not on the ceremony itself, or my poor words, or on the fluctuating economy and the crushing debt we have dumped upon you, but on what you yourselves have accomplished.You ask questions like: What will the future be like? "What is the meaning of life?" "How can I make a fortune in pharmaceutical stocks with no money down?" "Why do we have to sit around in the hot sun listening to a commencement speech?" Why? Why? Why?I know you look to me for wisdom and guidance. I suppose if there is one single message I'd like to impart to you, it is to concentrate on what you are doing. If you do well, you will ultimately be successful, unless you are managing the Knicks, a politician trying to reduce the federal deficit, or a senior citizen looking for a comfort station in Flushing. Now go out into the world and prove that your student loan was not a bad investment. Land that job you desire except mine!Finally, members of the class of 2005, if I can proffer three pieces of advice, it is this - become rich, become famous; and keep sacred the holy days (Super Bowl Sunday, Oscar night, the Grammies and the Emmies). Thank you all, good luck and eat a malomar.Reach columnist Alex Berger by e-mail www.timesl
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