Mickey’s Commencement Speech

Before you go into panic mode, let me clearly state: No college or high school was actually foolish enough to invite Mickey to give the commencement address to its graduates. So, don’t worry about a generation of our youth actually taking to heart the advice Mickey is about to give and ruining our world for the next twenty years. This is just the insane drivel that Mickey would say if some superintendent, principal, or college dean were actually stupid enough to ask.

This is not Mickey. It is either George Applebee, or it is Red Skelton pretending to be George, depending on how literal or gullible your brain is.

The most impressive commencement speech I remember from my life in education was given in 1974 by my favorite high school English teacher, Mr. Sorum. He was a gifted speaker and told a mean joke whenever a joke was needed to make the point.

He talked for forty-five minutes about “Taking the next bite of the hot dog.”

Of course, he was talking about a metaphor where the hot dog was a life of being a good citizen and living in service to the greater good. High school graduation, in this speech, was the first bite of the hot dog. Some of us were listening to what Mr. Sorum was actually saying. My second bite of the hot dog was to get an English degree from Iowa State University. My third bite was a teaching degree from the University of Iowa. The fourth was choosing a life of service by being a public school English teacher. So, I followed his advice.

Most of my class, though, took that speech to mean life was all about eating hot dogs. Was I wrong? Do I need to rethink my life?

This is not Mickey either. This is Boris Karloff in makeup having a cigarette, or possibly being Frankenstein’s monster.

If I am going to give advice to today’s graduates, the advice I would have to give is, “For God’s sakes, don’t choose to be a public school teacher! Do you have any idea how hard that job is for how little reward (practically none of it in money?)”

So, what advice do I have for actually doing something with your life that helps with the common good?

The most important one; “After you go to the bathroom, flush! Gol dangit! And afterwards, wash your danged hands!

You wouldn’t believe what kind of bacteriological nightmares are being placed in your hand daily if you have a job where you are supposed to regularly shake hands.

This is Mickey. Or possibly a two-eyed cyclops giving the world the ultimate stink-eye.

Another key recommendation;; “Stop being so gosh-darned ugly!”

Of course, you know that this is not a matter of whether you have a pretty face or you scare rats in dark rooms. This is a matter of behavior. A matter of how many people you hate and treat with scorn and injustice, as well as who you routinely hate, and why you hate them. Hating anyone for any reason is not good for their health and is even worse for yours.

And a final thought about how to improve the world; “Figure out what and who you love in this world. Everyone needs to have something and someone to love and work at sharing your life energy with.” People need other people and they need a purpose, even if they have to forge that purpose out cardboard, imagination, and thin air.

If, by chance, you can already handle all of these things that idiot Mickey is lecturing you about, especially if these things come naturally to you, then totally ignore that first dumb thing Mickey said. Think seriously about becoming a teacher. What you have we desperately need more of. And with your expertise passed on to others, we might just be able to make more of it.


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2 responses to “Mickey’s Commencement Speech

  1. Mickey, I like the hot dog analogy. He knew the audience he was speaking to, so he at least got their attention, even though some may not have understood the analogy. your emboldened advice is good as well. My favorite commencement speech was at my oldest son’s college graduation by General Colin Powell. He used a story of how he needed his ROTC grades to eke out a 2.08 GPA and graduate. The grads laughed and he had them. Keith

    • Thanks, Keith. I have never been asked to give a speech like that, and I never will be. But this is not the first one I have written. I think every old guy like us has a duty to think about the wisdom our life experiences generate, and how we are going to pass it on.

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