All across the state, from the mighty University of Maryland at College Park to modest Villa Julie College, commencement exercises are being held this week, featuring keynote speeches by the likes of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Colin Powell and the ever-quotable Captain Kangaroo. Each speaker will take the podium and attempt to deliver an inspirational addressto a sea ++ of fidgety young graduates, whose main concern at the moment is: "I hope there's enough ice around the keg."
Since no one ever actually listens to a commencement address, columnist Kevin Cowherd delivers one of his own to the Class of 1996, filled with the kind of insight every new graduate needs after the keg is kicked.
Honored graduates, members of the faculty, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
It is with a profound sense of humility that I, a scruffy, dead-end kid from Baltimore and member of the Class of 1954, stand here before you.
As my wife and I strolled your lovely campus this morning, I was struck by this thought: Except for the shaved heads, nose rings, tattoos, fraternity insignias branded into shoulders, canisters of Mace slung from book bags, beefed-up security patrols, anti-sexual harassment posters and AIDS hotline numbers plastered on light poles every 10 feet, the campus is just as I remember it.
Arleen says I grew misty-eyed as we passed through the dorms. I think it was just the odor from all the sweat socks drying on the radiators.
In any event, I come before you today with an important message. And the message is this: Never let go of your dreams.
If -- as is so typical of your generation -- your dream is to acquire a bone-white Lexus and weave in and out of traffic while talking to your accountant on the car phone, go for it, as the kids say today.
I wish you well. The Mercedes is, by and large, a better car for the money, but that is neither here nor there. A gallon of regular unleaded is up to $1.50. We might all soon be driving Chevy GEOs.
No small challenges lie ahead for you members of the Class of 1996.
Our world has become ever more complicated. Every day, we're faced with increasingly difficult choices: Job growth or environmental decay. Social liberalism or personal responsibility. Bell Atlantic or MCI. Nike or Reebok. HBO or Showtime.
And the Big One: Whopper or Arch Deluxe.
One thing my generation has learned over the years is that you can't have it all. You can only have part of it, about one-eighth. Or maybe two-eighths, if you're really lucky.
Two-eighths, of course, is a fraction that can be further reduced to one-quarter. But I don't have to tell you that. You're college graduates. Or maybe I DO have to tell you that.
The point is, you're all aware that the employment picture is less than rosy. The buzz words of today are corporate restructuring and downsizing and enhanced profit margins.
The prophets of doom will have you believe that a degree in applied physics will lead to nothing more than straightening up the fixin's bar at Roy Rogers.
This is patently false; more likely, it's the person with a degree in anthropology who'll end up at Roy's. But if that's where your career takes you, by God, make sure you're the best fixin's bar straightener-upper there ever was.
Make sure there's plenty of barbecue sauce and horseradish. Tidy up around the onion slices -- people tend to splatter them the most. Don't let any stray hot peppers land in the tomato tray. Make sure you have enough of those little cups people use to put ketchup in.
Take pride in your work. You'll never regret doing your best.
In closing, if I could offer one piece of advice as you negotiate the rocky shoals of post-graduate life, it would be this: Listen to your inner voice.
You know when you're tossing and turning at 3 in the morning and the voice inside you says: "Boy, I could go for some nachos"?
That's the voice you want to listen to.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Pub Date: 5/21/96