Words of wisdom for the Class of '99

May 30, 1999|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight Ridder/Tribune

MEMBERS OF THE graduating Class of 1999: When I gaze out upon you, so young and proud in your caps and gowns, the thought that goes through my mind, as your commencement speaker today, is: Where did you get those caps? The House of Dorks? What's the point of getting all this education if you don't have enough sense to say "no" when the authorities tell you to attend your commencement ceremony wearing what appears to be a pizza box? What if the authorities told you to attend your commencement with a live duck strapped on your head? Would you do that? I would! Think of the advantages! When the commencement speaker started droning away, you could gently prod your duck with a Bic pen, and when it started quacking, you could get up and announce: "I have to leave! There's something wrong with my duck!"

That's the kind of initiative you need to show, young people. Because we are approaching the Dawn of the New Millennium, and the question is: How are you, Class of 1999, going to respond when the Clock-Radio of Challenge emits the Buzz of Opportunity? Are you going to roll over and hit the Snooze Button of Complacency? Or are you going to wake up and, after performing the Bodily Functions of Preparedness, boldly grasp the Toothbrush of Tomorrow?

I hope so, Class of 1999. I hope you are ready to take over, because my generation is getting old and tired. We have good reason to be tired: We won World War II. No, wait, that was our parents. But my generation did watch a lot of grueling movies about World War II. Then, for a while, we tried to solve the problems of society. We gave up on that and looked for "closure." Today we have given up on closure and would settle for a good herbal laxative.

So we're basically finished, and the time has come for us to pass the torch on to you. But before we do, we must ask you a very important question: Where the heck did we put the torch? We can't find anything any more. By conservative estimate, my generation has now spent 50 times as much time looking for its car keys as it ever spent protesting war and racism. I, personally, right now, own at least 247 pairs of reading glasses, and the only way I can find any of them is when I step on a pair.

So it is up to you, the Class of 1999, to do whatever it was I was saying. And now is the time!

Think of the opportunities you have! You have the Internet! My generation did not have the Internet. When my generation needed a piece of information, such as the population of Rhode Island, we had to haul out the encyclopedia, which was a bunch of dusty old heavy books. First we had to figure out what book "Rhode Island" was in, which was difficult because the books were labeled with Secret Encyclopedia Code phrases such as "Quisling -- Rotogravure." Then we had to manually look up "Rhode Island," using the alphabet, which, like long division and the song "Polly Wolly Doodle," is probably not taught in schools any more. Then we had to hunt around for the population statistics, which were comically inaccurate because our encyclopedias were always way out of date, having been written when there were only about 17 states and scientists thought the Moon was carried across the sky by a big turtle.

Things are much easier for you, the Class of 1999, thanks to the Internet. All you have to do is type in the words "population of Rhode Island" into your computer, and within a few seconds, the number appears on your computer screen: 467,298. This is not the population of Rhode Island, of course: This is the number of Web sites that contain the words "population," "Rhode," "Island" or "of."

So you start clicking away with your mouse pointer, and 14 hours later, you find yourself looking at a Web site titled "Poison Frogs of the Congo Delta." You have no idea how you got there, except that along the way you purchased two weeks in February at a time-share condominium in Saskatchewan and saw 583 pictures of Pamela Anderson naked. This was not possible in my day, Class of 1999! We didn't even have Pamela Anderson!

Yes, it's a bright new world you're entering, Class of 1999 -- a world that will offer many exciting career opportunities, such as tattoo removal, which, trust me, is going to be the next Internet, once you all start having children and get tired of explaining to them how come mommy and daddy have bad words written on their butts. Ha ha!

In closing, let me leave you with the words of the great educator Dr. Quisling P. Rotogravure, who said: "Fare thee well; fare thee well; sing polly wolly doodle all the day." Remember those words, Class of 1999. And put sunscreen on your duck.

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