I came across this recently: Sen. Bob Dole (remember him?) opened his address to the graduating class of 1996 at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, by noting, “Being a commencement speaker is like being a corpse at a funeral. They need you in order to hold the event, but nobody expects you to say very much.”
This coming Sunday our own graduating seniors will celebrate their achievements past, present and future. Before the soon-to-be graduates get too far ahead of themselves, I wish to share from another commencement speaker: Bill Gates (remember him?).
I remembered what a huge impression Bill Gates’ commencement speech, delivered in the mid-’90s, to a high school graduating class, made on me. I quoted his 11 rules in my column then, and I’ll do it again now because his advice still holds true.
Rule 1: Life is not fair —get used to it!
Rule 2: The world doesn’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will not make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both. (The need for a car phone is dated — but not the concept of earning your way.)
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it “opportunity.”
Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet on your own.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.
Each year, we give our Pagosa Springs High School graduates a pat on the back and send them out into the world — many of them go on to college. We just came back from our daughter Courtney’s graduation from the Colorado School of Mines. What did we learn from the commencement speakers? One was a graduating student and one a CEO of a major petroleum company. The student reported that School of Mines’ students have a reputation of being “wicked smart,” and he wanted to set the record straight: “They are.” We learned from the CEO that, while Playboy publishes the “top 10 party schools” each year, the School of Mines made Huffington Post’s list of the top 10 “anti-party schools.” Like to kick back on the weekend with a glass of milk and a stack of homework? The Colorado School of Mines might be for you!