Speaking in Fancy Hats 2.0

You know how people often find themselves asking – “Gee, I wonder how similar I am to Britney Spears?” I’m sorry…you’ve NEVER done that??! I call bullshit! Everyone’s done that! The Pope has done that. And if you’re wondering, it’s his affection for bubble gum. Yup, Pope Francis and Britney Spears both love bubble gum. Constant mastication….that’s chewing, you pervs!

Anyway, at least this is one of life’s mysteries that I have solved!! Because, oops, I’ve done it again! So here it is in all it’s jowly, double-chinned, snaggle-toothed, anachronistic medieval polyester gowned gloryness! The Reflection at Commencement 2017. I don’t remember much, but I didn’t throw up and I didn’t pass out soooo….SUCCESS!!

Just as an aside – you can’t hear the roar of the crowd but when 12,000 people laugh out, it gets loud! And, not going to lie, it can be quite the heady feeling!


President Haas, Provost Davis, Distinguished Guests, Faculty and Staff, friends and family, and all of you lovely graduating students – HELLO CLASS OF 2017!

It is customary for commencement speeches to start off with meaningful quotes from inspiring people….the New Kids on the Block have said “Tonight…..tonight…..la la la la la ..la la tonight”! I may be wrong on that last “la la”!

Tonight is a big night. For most of you it represents the end of 4, 5, 6, and more years of hard work, sleepless nights, and the consuming of meals with enough sodium content to mummify a herd of elephants!

Take a breath. Then take a moment to look around you – you’re surrounded by friends and family who have been with you every step of the way. They’ve cheered you on, they’ve listened to you vent about courses and professors, they’ve sent care packages and cooked you meals, they’ve bought you textbooks, …and they haven’t judged you even when your crazy course work forced you to make some questionable decisions about personal hygiene. You owe them a lot, so don’t ever forget that this degree – this was a team effort.

But YOU were unquestionably the most important team member and we are so proud of you. We are proud of the effort you put in, the time you committed, the increasing intelligence of your answers, the growth in your understanding, the improvement in your attitude – but on behalf of all the faculty, can I say, that unfailingly and collectively, your handwriting remains atrocious!

After tonight you won’t remember what I said or even who I am – your clearest memory of this evening will be about how hungry you got waiting to graduate, or how uncomfortable the chairs were, or how you used the time to keep all your Snapchat streaks alive – I don’t even know what this last one means but my 13 year old assured me that’s what you were probably doing.

After tonight, nothing in life will come with a syllabus, a lesson plan, a grading rubric – you won’t get to make a cheat sheet, all quizzes are unannounced, and everything – literally everything – is on the test!

After tonight, certain things will become abundantly clear and there’s no amount of college that can prepare you for this: this learning thing, this is a lifelong thing – you will never be done. Because that’s not how education works – it doesn’t go on a shelf, it doesn’t belong in a photo album, it doesn’t come out of storage for the holidays. Intellect is a muscle and it needs to be constantly exercised. It’s a very short and very steep step from well-informed to ignorant.

After tonight there will be many successes and, unavoidably, some failures. Don’t let either throw you. When you succeed and someone asks where you graduated from – proudly say “Grand Valley State University”. But after one of those unavoidable failures, when someone asks were you graduated from – maybe consider saying – oh, I don’t know – Ohio State? 

So I was super excited when they asked me to deliver the Reflection for tonight’s commencement because clearly, there’s nothing you guys want MORE, than to listen to life advice from someone dressed in polyester robes, and a fancy hat – like a LARPer at a Harry Potter convention.

But, I’d like to add a small disclaimer to all this valuable knowledge I’ve just dropped – I am still working on finishing my grading for this semester, my 13 year old still rolls her eyes at me, I’ve been writing a paper for 2 years now and it’s still not done, and my 10 year old won’t eat his vegetables – so take all this advice I’m giving with an enormous sack of salt!

We’re so glad you chose to come to GVSU. We’re so glad you’re finally leaving…I mean graduating. Don’t be a stranger – come back and visit us, we’d love to hear from you.  All the very best for the future!

Thank you all! And PEACE OUT Lakers!



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