May 15, 2004
I gave the graduation commencement address last night for a small charter high school in Cave Creek that caters to troubled kids who the public high schools have given up on. In other words, kids who are exactly like me.
I knew two things going in. Most of them weren’t going to pay attention for very long, and two, the few who would be listening at all were going to be suspicious of an old man in a cowboy hat.
Here’s the basic message I ended up giving them:
“Believe it or not, I once sat where you are sitting. I remember wearing those stupid looking caps and gowns and thinking what will the next 25 years bring? Will I have a pretty wife? How many kids will I have? Will I drive a cool car? Will I have a good job? Will I make lots of money? Will I be happy?
“If I ever shut up, you are soon going to be embarking on an extended road trip. But tonight I am here to give you a report on that journey, to give you some guideposts—a travel advisory.
“I’ve been down the road you are just now embarking on. Imagine I just got back in town and I’ve got some news on the road conditions up ahead.
• First of all, before you start your trip, take a good look around at your friends. This will be the last time you are all going to be together in the same place. This seemed goofy to me at my graduation, when the guy speaking told us this. It was absurd. I had seen all my classmates, every day for four years, some for twelve. It was the last time. Two weeks later, one of my classmates died in a carwreck. Vietnam was heating up and several went and didn’t come back. Take a good look at your friends. This is a fleeting moment in time. You will never be all together in once place, ever again.
• Just like the Carefree Highway, the road to success is always under construction. It’s your job to find another route, be patient and wait out the delays, or figure out a way to deal with it. Getting angry isn’t one of them.
• There will be long stretches of lonely road, where you will wonder if it’s worth the trip. Later on, down the road, you will think back and remember some of the desolate stretches as your favorite. Don’t ask me why, you just will.
• You will break down. More than once. Hopefully you’ll be close to a place to get help, but either way you will be amazed at the people who will stop and help you.
• Enjoy the detours. Some of the best things I’ve ever discovered or received, I got on a detour. Plus detours force you to stop and look at the world around you. Be thankful for the detours. God bless detours.
• Be careful of sideroads. You may be tempted to take them from time to time but remember the words of Jerry Seinfeld: “Sometimes the road less travelled, is less travelled for a reason.”
• I’ve travelled in some cool cars and I’ve travelled in some crappy cars. One of the most excruciating trips I ever went on was in a cramped, hot XKE Jaguar, and one of the most fun trips I’ve ever taken was in a coughing, sputtering ‘74 Pinto. Remember this: For everything you gain you will lose something and for everything you lose you will gain something.
• Take your time. People will be passing you like crazy but so what? Don’t take it personally. Besides, by the time you reach greener pastures you’ll probably be too old to climb the fence.
• The perfect recipe for life is: something to do, someone to love and something to hope for.
• The farther up the flagpole you go the more people can see your rear end.
• I finally met one of my heroes recently and I asked him which was more rewarding: the road getting to where he was, or arriving, and he said, ‘The road is the only thing.’”
• Enjoy the trip and be sure to write.
“Security is a myth. There is no such thing as security in all of Nature. Life is either a great adventure or it is nothing at all.”
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