All over the country at this time of year there are graduation ceremonies, for high school and college seniors, and at just about every one of these ceremonies a guest speaker will address the crowd. At the great majority of these ceremonies the guest speaker will not be me. OK, I won’t be speaking at any of them. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some good advice to impart.Not that it would make any difference. Very few graduates listen to the speeches made at these ceremonies. I know, because I graduated from high school myself once. Stephen Hahn and I had something far more important to discuss than whatever the speaker had to say, although I don’t currently remember what it was. It must have been pressing, though, because I don’t even remember who our speaker was.Plus, even though a large part of any graduation speech is made up of advice for the graduates, very few follow it even if they listen. There’s a good reason for this – kids today know everything. I know that because I have three sons. If you can find a teenager who listens to advice and actually uses it, I’d like to know where he lives. And what rocket ship I need to take to get there.Mark Twain once said that when a boy becomes a teenager you should seal him up in a barrel and feed him through a hole. And when he turns eighteen you should plug the hole. I’m thinking that’s probably good advice, and I didn’t take it, so I guess I’m being hypocritical when I complain about the kids. But still.A comedian I heard recently said he had no idea how old Satan was when he decided to defy God, but he was probably fifteen, which would fit. He said teenagers are God’s revenge on us for atheism – He allows us to create beings who won’t recognize our existence or authority. But then, they do recognize our money, so I guess it works out.A friend of mine happens to be president of a Texas college, and a while back he received a visit from an alumnus who had graduated about twenty years earlier. The man told my friend his advice at that graduation had been invaluable in his life.The president asked what the advice he’d given was, and the man said, “You shook my hand when you gave me my diploma and said, ‘Keep moving. Keep moving.’”Graduation speeches are far too general to do anyone any good, anyway. Young people need specific advice. All they get from guest speakers is old and worn out, like, “Work hard and save money,” or “Life is the biggest test of all,” or “Aim for the moon and even if you miss you’ll hit the stars.” What a bunch of baloney. It’s no wonder the kids don’t listen. My favorite is, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Whoever said that must not have realized how much sugar goes into lemonade.Young people need specifics. They need advice they can use. If a kid is going to a state university, for instance, you should tell him, “Look for Porsches and Ferraris in the student parking lot, and make friends with the owners. Chances are they’ve got rich parents.”Some advice, of course, is appropriate for any graduate. W.C. Fields once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then give up. There’s no use being a fool about it.” Everyone fails sometimes. Young people need to realize they’re going to make mistakes. Good judgement is a valuable trait, and it comes from experience. Experience comes from poor judgement.Everyone also needs to learn never to pass up an opportunity to shut up, and its corolary – The first rule of holes is, when you find yourself in one, quit digging.Some advice is gender specific, like what Jimmy Stewart told his future son-in-law in ‘Shenandoah,’ which I will not repeat here. But there are some things guys need to know, such as: Never ask a woman if she’s pregnant. If she is, she’ll tell you. If she’s not, there is no graceful way to apologize.Likewise, there are things women need to learn. If your husband brings you flowers for no reason, there’s a reason. He doesn’t love football more than you, but the best time to ask him about that is during a commercial. And you should never, under any circumstances, ask him to clean the bathroom and then expect it to actually be clean. Guys can’t see dirt. It’s a genetic thing. Get used to it.My favorite advice about school, though, comes from Mark Twain. He said, “Never allow schooling to get in the way of your education.”In closing, graduates, I’ll leave you with the words my grandfather always said to my grandmother when she was headed to the beauty parlor: Good luck to you . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who regards free advice as worth every penny. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org