Commencement Speech | AspenTimes.com

Commencement Speech

Barry Smith

What follows is the script of a high school commencement address I delivered last week — with notes included. In fact, this part here also is part of my notes. I hope I remember to skip this part when I start reading, because if I were to stand up and say, “Ahem, what follows is the script of a high school commencement address … etc.” Ugh. Very unprofessional. Anyway, the longer I make this introductory note section the greater chance of that sort of mistake happening, so I’ll just go ahead and wrap it up now and get to the actual address part.

Dear Graduates,

First of all, let me apologize for that rocky start to this speech. I accidentally started reading the notes section instead of skipping down to where the speech actually begins.

Anyway, welcome to one of the most important days of your life. So important, in fact, that you might even consider taking a few selfies. In case that hadn’t occurred to you already.

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I was doing selfies long before they were called selfies, even back in the days of film cameras (wait for confusion to die down as crowd gasps and murmurs while trying to imagine the concept of “film camera”). Back then, a selfie took some skill. You had to anticipate your focus and exposure, which was no small feat. And you had to get everyone — or at least yourself — in the frame. I know that sounds obvious, but you had to do so without the benefit of actually getting to see the frame. Because back then, cameras all were designed to be pointed away from you. (More waiting for shock to wear off — this one may take a while.) And then you had to go a week or so until you finally got around to developing your film before you knew if you were even successful. You might have taken a picture of the tops of heads or the sides of faces, and if so you’d have to gather everyone — or at least yourself — back together, assuming that was even possible, which it always wasn’t. (Note: Maybe say “never was” instead of “always wasn’t.” Depending on the vibe you’re getting from the crowd.)

And even in the pre-iPhone digital age, a selfie was something you had to work for to get right. Granted, my arms are longer than most humans’, but freakish wingspan does not automatically make you the Ansel Adams of selfies, as I sometimes try to get people to refer to me as. No, it took real intuition and finesse to get a picture of yourself standing in front of stuff, something you and your generation will never know. You see, back then narcissism was something you had to really work at.

But I’m not here today to talk about narcissism, I’m here to talk about myself.

Although I do have a few more things to say about selfies first. (Roar of approval from crowd will be overwhelming — brace for it.) I’ve been reading rumors that the new iPhone will be released this fall and that one of its features will be that it takes a selfie no matter what else you’re trying to do with it. Send a text — it takes a selfie. Search for an address — takes a selfie. Look up a fact to prove someone wrong in a casual conversation — selfie. This new technology is going to free up about 85 percent of your time, so you had better start thinking about what you’re going to do with that giant void created in your life.

At this point you may be wondering why I was asked to speak at your graduation, given that I’m not up here telling you how wonderful and unique you all are and how important it is that you do this or that for the rest of your life. Well, the truth is, I wasn’t technically “asked” to speak (make air quotes when saying “asked,” so that the emphasis is made clear, or just read this part out loud, on purpose) and I can see several security guards making their way toward me right now to remind me of that fact. By the way, if you’re still pondering your career choice, security guard is a pretty good one — there’ll always be a need for them.

Anyway, rather than letting them pepper spray me and then physically escort me from the stage, I’m now going to take off running. Enjoy the rest of your day. Which should be pretty easy once it fully sinks in that you don’t have any homework tonight.

Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays.


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