There is going to be a lot of activity this week regarding the current scandals in Washington. So, I’ve decided to start the week on the lighter side.
On Saturday this faux commencement speech by Rob LaZebnik, a writer for the television show “The Simpsons” in the Wall Street Journal. After sarcastically addressing the qualifications needed to attend college these days, Mr. LaZebnik reviews the credentials of this recent graduating class:
You masterfully tied together a set of emotional symptoms that looked enough like attention deficit disorder to buy you extra time on all your finals and standardized tests. Plus, you got to take the exams in special quiet rooms, where a test facilitator would sharpen the pencils outside, because the grinding sound triggered your acute sensory overload. (Which somehow didn’t preclude your part-time summer job at Blenders Juicery.)
You hired private college advisers to read your essays and hone your interview skills. Just think back to those valuable sessions where you learned to practically leap out of the chair talking about your passion for writing one-act plays in Cherokee, or how your heart raced that summer on the Mongolian steppes when you first spotted an ovoo monitor lizard, once thought to be extinct.
And you learned to deftly walk the college interviewer through your many achievements while still showing carefully modulated self-effacement: “Yes, I helped design the CO2 scrubber that will save humanity from global warming, but it was totally a team effort.”
Then you arrived at this great institution, where you dabbled in a couple of your passions, only to quit them after freshman year because you found new ones: playing hundreds of rounds of “Settlers of Catan” and having long debates into the night over which Stark son is hotter on “Game of Thrones.”
The keys of your $20,000 Powell flute became rusted shut after it was put to use as a bong for the last two years. Your Wilson Pro H22 tennis racquet quickly became a drying rack for your underwear once you found out that the college tennis team was filled with power-hitting recruits from Estonia and the Ukraine who could knock a flash drive off the top of your head with a backhand.
So you relaxed into college life—a well-deserved break after the exhausting race to get here. You’ve spent four years percolating in a warm stew of beer, gender studies and online pornography—which led to the subject of your senior thesis, “Jacobean Dramatic Tropes in Modern ‘Massage Surprise’ Videos.”
He does not let the parents of this “wunder-class” off the hook, he continues:
Fortunately, your parents, who had become so accustomed to guiding you through the myriad decisions you had to make to get into this place, have been able to stay in constant smartphone contact. You’ve been able to call them when you were at the salad bar and couldn’t remember which salad dressing you like. You were able to email them your sociology paper—and luckily, Dad’s colleague Elliot at the firm had an M.A. in sociology and was able to make a few helpful suggestions, such as the central argument, supporting evidence and the pull-it-all-together conclusion.
After lamenting the actual time a student spends at college, Mr LaZebnik reviews this graduating class’s achievements:
The first, and perhaps finest accomplishment, is having persuaded your parents to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to extend your childhood for four years.
Let’s also not forget how hard you’ve worked to find something to protest against. In my day, it was apartheid in South Africa. In yours, it’s championing people who wanted the God-given right to use a gender-neutral bathroom. Thrillingly, you petitioned the President and Trustees and won: Now guys can make both bathrooms on every dorm floor equally disgusting.
But there is another huge achievement that your generation will take away from college. A great stroke of genius that you have collectively devised, marshaling all of the intelligence and drive that got you admitted here in the first place: the hookup culture.
You’ve had vast amounts of sex—weekends upon weekends of bed-swapping that began on Thursday nights. There is not a single bed, couch, lab counter, library desk, football end zone, university founder’s statue, Henry Moore sculpture or monkey research cage on top of which you, the outstanding class of 2013, haven’t copulated.
And you young straight men, in particular, have had amazing advantages. This school, like every other liberal arts institution today, is 60% women. Factor in a gay population of 8% to 10%, and the odds were massively, groaningly in your favor.
He then puts this all in perspective:
Your life has been a nonstop ride of work, study and fun. Now, though, you’re about to walk out of those iron gates and … what? You’re headed into the most challenging labor market of the last 80 years.
Because you’re driven and have been told over and over in speeches like this one to follow your passion, you’re going to write eye-catching job query letters and send them with bulging resumes to the heads of Greenpeace, the Aspen Music Festival, ESPN, the Clinton Global Initiative, “The Colbert Report” and Tesla Motors.
That will take three days. Then you’re going to have months and possibly years of free time ahead of you. Free time that you won’t know how to fill, because you’ve never really had any before.
After giving a few suggestions about what to do with their free time, the speech concludes:
I believe that because most commencement speakers have been so successful, they think they can identify the ingredients that led them to success. But they tend to discount the major role that simple good fortune and timing played in their prosperity. So I advise you to ignore all the clichés of the typical commencement speech and do what your generation does best: get lucky.
The class of 2013, they are going to change the world. God help us all.