Soon it will be graduation time. I bet you may have someone in your family who is graduating at one level or another. Hell, today they even have graduation ceremonies for kindergarten. I have a granddaughter graduating from college in May. She is very bright and very very talented as an artist. I will be happy for her as I attend the ceremony and watch her step out into the real world.
As I was sitting in my thinking chair on the back patio this morning, I got to thinking about graduation. I’ve never been much on ceremony. I remember my high school graduation down to the lyrics of Somewhere the song from Westside Story that our class performed for our beaming parents sitting in he audience. Penn State had an unusual “term” system when I attended and I finished up in late march. No way I was going to make the trip back in June just so my parents could spend a couple of hours sitting in Beaver Stadium attempting to determine which little flat-hatted spec down on the field was me. So I skipped that ceremony and filed my diploma in a folder and went on with life. When I got my Masters, it was a much smaller event. Rosemarie and my son attended. I was happy just to have gotten through the algebra course.
I also got to thinking about graduation speeches and how boring and redundant most of them are. I’ve never had to give a graduation speech. Hmmm, this got me to really thinkin’ in my thinking chair. What would I say? What sage advice would I have to offer? Well, I have to admit there are some “themes” I’ve acquired in my personal repertoire.
I have always been an admirer of Robert Fulghum. He’s the author of several best-sellers back in the ‘80s, one of which was All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. This is one of my favorite books. It pretty much lays out a game plan for life that most of us were taught in Kindergarten. Things like sharing, being nice, cleaning up after yourself—you know, good old Golden Rule kind of stuff. So I think I’d work in some of Fulghum’s thoughts to my graduation speech.
But the keynote of my keynote speech would be my priceless (to me at least) advice about learning how a thermostat works. I’ve written about this in the past. The concept is, once you master the thermostat you are ready to face life properly. Let’s review!
Have you ever been in a thermostat war? Of course you have. This is when you wind up battling someone—could be a family member or a person at work—who takes control of the temperature by insisting the room is too hot or too cold. You, of course, feel the opposite. The two of you proceed to sneak on over to the thermostat on the wall and make an adjustment in your favor, only to have the other person do the same as soon as you’ve left. Often, management will install a lockbox over the thermostat to prevent this very activity.
Most people don’t know how to adjust a thermostat. This is another fine point I’d make in my speech. Usually, if someone is hot or cold they will go to the thermostat and jettison the temperature setting to way up or way down, whichever the case. They won’t just nudge it a degree or two, they’ll sent it into the stratosphere of radical degrees, sometimes ten or twenty from the where it was originally set. This is what causes thermostat rage to develop and the next thing you know co-workers are firing off paperclips or wads of paper across the room at each other.
Well, I think of the process of getting along with people is much akin to how a thermostat works. If you make adjustments in small increments, you are more likely to achieve the temperature you want, or at a level for which you are willing to compromise. Radical responses only beget more radical responses and the next thing you know there’s an arms race as to who can reach the thermostat first to jam it way up or down. This is why I have advocated a mandatory class in all schools that thoroughly teaches students how a thermostat ( aka life) works.
So, when you stop and think about it, Fulghum’s basic “things I learned in kindergarten” along with my explaining how the thermostat of life works…well, there you have it: a great graduation speech.
Of course I’d end it with something profound. It would have to be something that’ll linger on and be remembered for years to come. It could be a provocative thought from The Godfather like leaving the gun and taking the cannoli…or how about Kermit the Frog who said, “May success and a smile always be yours, even when you’re knee-deep in the sticky muck of life.”
Damn, betcha don’t hear a graduation speech like this one!