(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!)