deliver a Commencement Address at Belmont Abbey College one week
early. I guess it beats being a week late. Still you have to wonder
whether I bothered to read my own seminar notes from my Time
Management program “Winning the Time Wars.”
It also raises questions about the wisdom of the powers that be at
Belmont Abbey about why they wanted me to do their Commencement
That notwithstanding, commencement speeches are one of those things
you must question. In my presentation, I reminded the graduates to
thank their parents, not just for all they have done for them in the
past, but more importantly because many of the students will be moving
back in one day soon. You have to question the ridiculous medieval
garb in which you are clothed to deliver this momentous address. The
hats kill me. They weren’t in style when they were in style.
You have to question all the motivational jargon we speakers use. For
instance “You can be anything you want to be!” Really? Why is it that
a significant number of the people listening to my presentation are
more likely to become a felon than to become a President?
You have to question the message of hope that we spew to the huddled
masses. What they hope for is a job that will pay a little more than
minimum wage. What they hope for is the American dream of a family and
a home. Reality… over half will end up in a divorce and many will
lose those homes.
You have to question the speakers who come to inspire others by mostly
talking about themselves. I have often said that failures would be
better equipped to deliver words of inspiration than those who are
members of the silver spoon club. At least they’ve experience some
You have to question those of us who tell the graduates to follow
their dreams. What if they are stupid dreams? Thankfully, dreams can
and do change. I used to tell my children not to worry about what they
were going to be when they grow up… it hasn’t been invented yet.
Since four of the top ten jobs today didn’t exist just ten years ago,
most of the educational process is little more than an improvisation.
No matter what you pursue, you will serve only what you love. If you
love others, you will serve others. If you love money, you will serve
money. If you love yourself, you’ll serve only yourself… no matter
what career in which you find yourself. Today’s college graduates will
change jobs 14 to 20 times before they are 38 years of age. As a
speaker, how can I advise them to pursue their goals? The target keeps
moving on them. The best message I can deliver is adapt, don’t adopt.
Roll with the punches.
The more realistic message I could convey to today’s graduate is that
life is not supposed to be easy, but it doesn’t have to be torture
When you break down the word commencement you come up with two words,
common and cement. Life for all too many of us is just too common and
it’s very hard… just like cement.
It’s easier to hold down 20 shots of tequila than it is a job today.
Follow your own passion and your own path, unless you’re lost in the
woods and then it would be smart to follow someone else’s path. Why
reinvent the wheel? OPM- other people’s mistakes!
Does a Degree from college guarantee you anything? While 92% of those
with Degrees have the advantage over the 8% who don’t have a Degree,
is it a guarantee? Just ask Bill Gates or Steve Jobs about that.
Neither earned a Degree.
Guess what! Life is not fair. Deal with it. My old friend Robert
Orben, who once wrote speeches for Gerald Ford when he was in the
White House, suggested that graduation is where the commencement
speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and
gowns that “individuality” is the key to success.
The fact is graduation is only a concept. In real life we graduate
every day for the rest of our lives. If you can grasp that concept
you’ll make a difference in life.
Michael Aun is a syndicated columnist and writes a weekly column for
this newspaper. To contact Michael Aun, email him at