It’s time for the annual parody of the graduation speech:
As I stand before you today in this auditorium, concert venue or open stadium if anyone still bets on the weather now, the Earth is warming, seas are rising, storms and wildfires ravage the land, and you are graduating from high school or college.
So if you think you have it rough, let me tell you something: I have been to high school, and I remember exactly what it was like, and …
Oh wow. Bad memories. Whew! Yeah, well, good for you. You’re over that now.
College was no picnic, either, so congratulations if you’re done there, too.
Now it’s time to pack your laundry and move on. At least move out of your parents’ house, if not to another city.
When it comes to giving graduates advice, these days, I am reminded of a school superintendent who fresh from happy hour once told students to stop along the road of life to smell the flowers and admire the view and, quote, “Smile at a dog.”
A broader cultural perspective calls to mind classics such as the fabled Kurt Vonnegut address advising graduates always to wear sunscreen. The text actually was authored by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, in 1997, and a year later recorded by Australian Baz Luhrmann as the hit single “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen.”
Wear sunscreen also was the advice TV mogul Ted Turner gave in 1994 at Georgia State University, where he told graduates he was going from the ceremony to a skin cancer operation, and added, “The one piece of advice I can give you is put on sunscreen and wear a hat.”
In that vein, you’d better wear some insect repellent, too, especially if you plan to stay here: All kinds of tropical mosquito-borne diseases are spreading through the South now, you know. You’ve got your West Nile virus, your Chikungunya, your … What’s the one that starts with a ‘D’?
Dengue. Right. Thank you, Courtney.
This not the 1960s or ‘70s, when I grew up. You can’t run around half naked without any Coppertone or Off or a silly little short-brimmed hat on.
To have a healthy youth, from here on, you need to take precautions, in this hot, stormy, disease-ridden environment. You need to wear sunscreen and a hat and insect repellent and a seat belt and a life vest and a helmet and gloves and safety glasses and a haz-mat suit and whatever else the circumstances dictate.
Do you know how many people are killed or injured each year by not wearing proper protective gear? ... Anyone? ... Anyone?
Well … I don’t know, either. But it’s a lot.
You must be ready to go outdoors, because in today’s environment, you must be wary not only of what can injure your body, but what can infect your soul.
So, you have to turn off the TV and disconnect from the online world, now and then, and go for a walk in the woods, or a run in the park, a trip to the beach.
You’ve got to enjoy the little things.
That’s from the movie “Zombieland,” filmed partly in Georgia, which has rules for surviving the zombie apocalypse. It’s Rule No. 32: Enjoy the little things.
So write these down, when you’re done texting each other: Wear sunscreen and a hat and insect repellent and a seat belt and yada yada yada.
But most of all, turn off and tune out, when you can. Go outside, and enjoy the little things: Smell a magnolia’s bloom, go for a walk by the river, take a drive to the beach, or smile at a dog.