I’m going to be delivering the graduation speech at my old high school this weekend. I have the fondest memories of the place, so it’ll be a real honor. I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to say. I keep thinking what I would want to tell my 18-year-old self sitting there in a mortarboard, about the things I’ve learned in the 18 years since. A couple of things come to mind.
First, I wish I had studied more in college, and done more of the reading. I find myself often wishing I’d read that Nietzsche, or paid more attention in economics class. Dr. Cecil Eubanks’ political theory class at LSU was the best college course I had, and I missed his final lecture because I had been out too late the night before partying. I still regret it. I don’t think many people wish they had drunk more beer in college.
Also, I wish I had had more of a sense back then of how easy it is to blow it. When I graduated from this high school, which was a kind of magnet school, all of us were bowed-up and certain that the world was going to open up for us and treat us like the happy, deserving little geniuses we thought we were. It didn’t work out that way. There were plenty of casualties among my classmates since 1985’s graduation: drugs, booze, bad choices of all kinds that diminished and even botched the future we thought was assured. Nothing is ever assured, and only the vain and deluded believe the future belongs to the intelligent. When I think about how close I came to screwing it all up for myself and for my mom and dad, who had sacrificed so much for me, it’s humbling and even scary. You should take nothing for granted.
Of course the kids won’t believe a word of it. I wouldn’t have at that age. That’s normal, I guess.