deadlines amuse me

exploring how the world works and why it works that way …

‘Don’t go! It’s a jungle out there! Stay in school!’

leave a comment »

For your reading pleasure: A commencement speech I delivered Saturday night.

Good evening, everyone, and especially our graduates. Your families, your friends and your faculty are very, very proud of you.

I’m going to quote today that late, great American philosopher — Rodney Dangerfield. You may remember his role as “big & tall” wardrobe king Thornton Melon in that 1986 classic film, Back To School.

At the film’s end, Melon addresses the graduating class of Grand Lakes University. This is what he says:

I have only one thing to say to you today …

It’s a jungle out there.

You gotta look out for number one.

But don’t step in number two.

And so, to all you graduates, as you go out into the world, my advice to you is …

Don’t go! It’s rough out there! Stay in school!

You occasionally find blunt truths in really bad movies, and Back to School is a really bad movie. But here’s one such truth from Thornton Melon:

It really IS a jungle out there.

I stood behind this lectern eight years ago, addressing the graduates. What a different time. That was two wars ago. That was a dismal economy ago. That was a credit crisis ago. That was a horrible job market ago. That was the unprecedented accumulation of trillions of dollars of national debt ago.

If there ever was a time for the ostrich to bury its head in the sand, this is it. Most folks might believe Thornton Melon, and do exactly that: Don’t go! Stay in school!

But you’re not like most folks. You are sons and daughters of Bonaventure. You do not ignore reality, nor do you shrink from it. You take from Bona’s a tradition of compassionate service, a restorative faith in humanity, and the necessary knowledge and skills to slash through the jungle out there.

You’re ready for this. Don’t shirk from the uncertainties of life that lie ahead of you.

Allow me to offer advice my old editor back home gave me decades ago.

Have a good reason for what you do.

Getting through life with love, compassion and zest involves adopting behaviors that produce exactly that. Choose those behaviors wisely. Insure that they lead you to the destinations you seek.

Be willing to be wrong sometimes.

Life is not without risk. Carefully measure the costs and benefits of a contemplated action, then act. But consider THIS truth from Thornton Melon: You WILL step in number two, and the stench might be overwhelming. Laugh it off, and move on, lesson learned.

Change is constant.

That’s why it’s necessary to continue to learn in every conceivable way. If you don’t keep your skills and knowledge fresh and reliable, you might end up deep in the doo-doo more often than you’d like.

Remember this: Out there are more Bonnies, many, many more Bonnies, just like you. Seek them out when you need one. (Isn’t that what Facebook’s for?) And please remember, too, the faculty you leave behind. Call on us if you need us. Or just call us, because we’ll miss you.

Godspeed, graduates. Now get out there and untangle that jungle.


Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 14, 2008 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: