Graduation 2013


I was asked by the students of the Los Angeles Leadership Academy (where I taught before I moved to Portland, ORE), to be their graduation speaker. The speech I gave was half what you see below and half in Spanish. (Oh, I took out the inside jokes.)

When I was asked to be the speaker here, I thought back to my high school graduation, 25 years ago. I thought back on the words that the graduation speaker gave. And, you know what? I don’t remember any of it. I remember him telling a story about Mother Teresa and a cookie. The moral of that story is quite lost on me now. But, my not remembering any of it takes the pressure off. Because, really, in 25 years, who here is going to remember a word that I said? Maybe, one or two of you will, but, really, it takes a lot of the pressure off.
I remember vowing that I would be at my 25th high school reunion so I could keep up with everyone. But, then, someone invented the internet and Facebook and I keep in touch with people just fine without having to travel.
I’m pretty sure that graduation speakers are supposed to tell you to “Live your dreams” and then quote Langston Hughes who wrote, “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”
Live your dreams.
Live your dreams my little ducklings.
Live your dreams, unless of course your dream is a dream where you are being chased by the police who have dogs and then you trip and the dogs bite you and then you arrested and put in a jail without a trial.
Some dreams aren’t worth living.
So, maybe live your dreams isn’t the right message to give you.
I saw on Facebook the phrase, Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. That’s my message today. That knowing stuff is important, but it can’t hold a candle to wisdom.
Knowledge is knowing a pool is three feet deep. Wisdom is not diving in.
Knowledge is knowing that thing you can say will shut someone up and make them feel stupid. Wisdom is keeping those words to yourself.
Knowledge is figuring out how a magic trick is done. Wisdom is bewilderment.
I am sorry, but all of those lesson you learned from me — PACU, SVSCOS, “X of doom,” el magic-purple-box, solids for equals, the five step plan — um, you need to know all of that as much as you need to know that a tomato is a fruit.
That stuff isn’t important.
Ok, maybe, just maybe, you will be on a game show and they will ask some math question in which you need to remember that when you factor the sum or difference of perfect cubes that the signs follow the acronym SOAP, but I doubt it.
I know, I wait until you’ve graduated to tell you that all the stuff that we tested you on wasn’t important. Now, I tell you that all that is important is wisdom. And let me tell you that the most important part of wisdom is kindness.
It is important to know right from wrong, but it is more important to do that which is right.
It is important to know who you are. That’s important and that’s knowledge. But more important and is wisdom – knowing that you’d be better off if you stopped thinking that who you are is important.
There are things we can change in life – like our pants.
There are things in life we can’t change – like our pants at this particular moment.
Knowing the difference is wisdom.
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Here are some examples of knowledge: a tine is the spoke part of a fork. The white part of an egg is called albumin. The word eschatology means of or pertaining to the end of time while the word scatological means of or pertaining to… well, you’ll look that one up.
It’s one thing to know how to say the words, “I love you,” “I’m proud of you,” or “I feel hurt by you.” But, it’s another to say those things. I challenge you to live your wisdom. To do good, be generous, and be kind. To become the kindest people you can.
My ducklings, I am so proud of you.
Go to college. Learn as much as you can.
But, more than that, be kind, and with regard to fruit salad with tomatoes, well, you know what to do.
With love,
i best

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