The Title Of My Commencement Address? Sixty-Nine.

(Taking Mary Schmich up on her commencement speech challenge given years ago, here is my speech. Can’t wait to read yours!)


Are you giggling? Are you shifting in your seat uncomfortably? Are you looking around, wondering why some of your fellow graduates are twittering?

A private, or not-so-private joke. In the classroom, whenever I’d say “Turn to page 69” or “The answer is 69” giggles always erupted. I’d nod, or smile feebly and say, with a twinge of sarcasm, “Yes, that’s a new one on me! You got me there!”

But that didn’t matter. You still thought you were the first class to laugh. You still thought you were the first to get the joke. You still thought I had no idea what you were giggling about.

And here we are, on your graduation day.

Giggling about sixty-nine.

Why is the Year of the Four Emperors so funny? 69 AD. The year that Galba, Otho, Vitellius and finally Vespasian ruled the Roman Empire after Nero’s suicide. A time of great turmoil, anarchy and unrest.

Sixty-nine. The atomic number of Thulium. A rare metal. Used for radiation.

Psalm 69. “I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait.” How many of you felt waiting for exam grades to be posted.

Jared Allen. Jersey number 69. Defensive End for the Minnesota Vikings.

69%. Just under a passing grade at many schools.

Rotate this amazing number 180 degrees and it’s still 69.

So many ways to view a simple number. A year. A jersey number. A prayer.

My view. Your view. The person-next-to-you’s view. As individual and unique as a fingerprint.

You were all taught the same material. You all studied the same things. But you each took away from it something that is unique to you and your experiences. After learning it, you each applied it in different ways. Some created advantage with the material. Some disregarded it. And others let it get the best of them.

You will leave this institution and go on to do other things. Notice that I didn’t say “better” things. Because some of you won’t. Some of you will choose not to use the tools provided. You will rest on your laurels and wonder why the guy next to you has it so good. You will sit back and view life in a limited way.

The choice is yours. You can choose to do great things. You can choose to better yourself and your surroundings. You can choose to view things differently. You can choose to create good in your life.

It’s all in the way you look at things.

If you take away one thing from your educational experience let it be the ability to look at things in a new way. A better way. A more enlightened way.

A glyph for the zodiac sign of Cancer. A percentage. ’69 – The year of Woodstock.

Now when you hear the number 69 it will have more than one definition for you. You will be reminded to view things from a different angle. You might challenge yourself to discover more definitions for the number 69.

And you might giggle. Because you know something the next guy doesn’t.

It can be our private joke.

(Thanks to SubWow at Absense of Alternatives  for pointing me in the direction of this awesome cause and the prize for this week’s commencement address challenge! Simply link your speech in the comments section of this post and one of my darling children will randomly draw a name/speech from a hat. Good luck and thanks for playing!)


Filed under Ponderings, Soapbox

33 responses to “The Title Of My Commencement Address? Sixty-Nine.

  1. angelcel

    Excellent! I must say I’m not taking part because I didn’t think I could come up with anything even half way as good as ‘The Sunscreen Speech’ (as I call it). Given sufficient time I thought I *might* be able to come up with a Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde-type sentence of profound wisdom …but then it wouldn’t be a speech – kind of missing the point then! Basically, I gracefully withdrew from the challenge, rather than embarrass myself.

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  3. Oh, Jane, this is so creative and intelligent! Not to mention the title of one of the best songs ever … Summer of ’69. (Giggle, giggle.) =>

    My speech is here:

  4. Most excellent!! How may I book you to give this speech to my kids when they graduate??!! You have outdone yourself, again.

    p.s. When you said “Thank you to…” at first I thought, “Oh, no. I didn’t teach her about 69 did I??!!” But I did tell you about 420! 😉

  5. This is so good Jane. Wish I was privy to these kind of speeches when I graduated. The line “It’s all in the way you look at things.” – So true, when you graduate and for the rest of your life.

  6. Wow, how insightful and inspiring. I was nodding along with you all the way. I especially liked “You will leave this institution and go on to do other things”. How true.
    Really great job, Jane!

  7. Yes. It’s true. Very wise.

    True note: in GRADUATE school, the classmate sitting next to me giggled at having to turn to page 69. And in all other ways acted like a 12 year old. Graduate school! (sigh)

    I forgot what else I was going to say. I need my tea….

  8. Oooh, I love it. Better than any I’ve ever heard in real life. I love the way you identify how so many things are subject to interpretation. Much like life, no?

    Mine is up on my site:

  9. I LOVE THIS. So brilliant, so wonderful, so amazing… Amusing and touching and actually saying something.

  10. I’d reply “42,” but let us not go there! 🙂

    Nice post. I just wish I knew what it means.

  11. This was great – but you didn’t actually spell out why 69 makes you giggle. ;)~

  12. Jane, you are awesome! I gotta say, I must have the maturity of a 15-year old because I saw 69 and started sniggering…

  13. This is fantastic, Jane! Had me chuckling 🙂 I’m not even going to attempt with my speech making skills, haha.

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  15. Standing ovation!

    Now, you can read mind and realize what a much better speech writer you are. Be careful politicians may start calling you.

  16. What wonderful advice, given with humor and grace! The perspective we have matters so much, and a good teacher (clearly you are one) encourages, and pushes us to learn to see from multiple perspectives. Thank you!

    And I’ll add, prepare for computer outages. 🙂

  17. I used to give students an extra point so they would NEVER score a 69!!

  18. Holy WOW!!! This was an amazing speech. Are you sure you don’t do this full time for pay? Like seriously. Or give sermons or something. You are miraculous, Jane. I am inspired.

  19. Amazing and cleverly crafted speech.

  20. Jane, I love this. It’s insightful and clever and smart, this taking something smirk-worthy and making it meaningful, admirable, astute. That’s a gift in every instance.
    Alas, I wrote no speech! I gave one at my graduation, in which I’m sure I gave a mature shout-out to my boyfriend. Today I wish I had a good speech in the works – there are many high school students in my charge – but not yet. My current favorite words to live by, though, are borrowed from the KIPP founders and their big little ideas: “Work hard, be nice.” And I share that with my students almost daily.

  21. This is great. It sounds so much like a commencement address. There seems to be a certain tone, and you’ve adopted it perfectly.

  22. I really wish I had thought of this.

    I was born in ’69 so I hear the giggling all the time.

  23. I never once heard anyone giggle at 69!! I must just mix with such pure minded people I think! 😀

  24. Now there’s a graduation speech I would’ve remembered years later! My 16 year old daughter still giggles at this number. What a great twist on an old joke to take a new refreshing look at starting out in life.
    Way to go Jane!

  25. secretlifeofjane

    What a great speech 🙂

  26. I think I will read this 69 times in tribute to its cleverness. It’s funny how associations can be so strong, even when no one’s talking about it in public (in polite conversation, that is)!

  27. bearyweather

    OMGosh … that is excellent! As a teacher who has heard the classroom giggles and too many graduation speeches, I really enjoyed your speech. It is a refreshing smile with a message …. Thank you for sharing it.

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