“Surviving In The Virtual World"
Good Morning. It’s an honor to return to my alma mater and deliver this year’s commencement address.
Fifty-one years ago, I sat in Freedom Hall with the Class of 1960; the first class to hold its commencement exercise in that venerable hall.
We had about the same number of graduates as your class, 347, and at the time, it was the largest graduating class at Fern Creek High School.
It’s been a long grind, and some of you may think you have crossed the finish line, but you have really just reached the starting line in life.
But remember, it’s not how fast you run. The important thing is that you finish the race.
And to the parents in the audience, welcome to your son’s or daughter’s graduation.
You got them this far, and now it’s time to let them go; let them make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them.
The late humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “Graduation Day is tough on adults. They go to the ceremony as parents, but they go home as contemporaries.”
I might add that after years of child-rearing, you are essentially unemployed after today.
But don’t give up your day job. You still have a role to play in your child’s life.
You will be their financial anchor; their ATM machine.
After going to school for 12 years, not including pre-school and kindergarten, you graduates are probably tired of the education process, but to survive in the virtual world in which we live, you’re going to need more than an I-Phone, I-Pad or PlayStation3.
You’re going to need some real brain power to deal with the mind-boggling stream of information coming at you.
It’s too late for me. I’m Information Superhighway road kill. Brain cells are dying by the billions. But there’s hope for you.
As weary as you are today, education remains the key to the race you are beginning.
Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
We’re seeing that happen in dictatorial societies like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria.
Some of the young people in those countries are highly-educated, but they feel disenfranchised by their governments and they’re demanding regime change.
Graduating from high school is like reaching a crossroad. The question is and always has been, "Which way do you go?"
You may think that you know what you want to do after graduation, but chances are you will wind up doing something entirely different.
I wanted to be a doctor, but I found out after my freshman year, I needed to grow up. So I joined the Air Force.
It turned out to be the best decision I have ever made.
That’s where I got into broadcasting and never looked back at what might have been.
When President Ronald Reagan and James Brady, his press secretary, were shot in Washington 30 years ago, I got to “talk like a doctor” on radio and television.
Classmate Delivers Creekers' 2011 Commencement Address
Ross Simpson was in fine form, delivering the 2011 Commencement Address at our alma mater.
Following his speech, Ross is presented an appreciation plaque by Brian Miller, executive director of the FCTHS Alumni Association and the school's "go to" guy. Seated at left is Fern Creek principal, Dr. Houston Barber.
Next stop: Hogan's Fountain
Gaining entry to the hospital before police sealed off the building, I was able to eavesdrop on conversations “real doctors” were having.
With their help, I was able to describe in detail the medical procedures that were being used to save Reagan’s life and the life of his spokesman.
Like the TV commercial for Allstate auto insurance says, “Life Comes At You Fast.”
It seems like only yesterday that I listened to that commencement address in 1960; but for the life of me, I can’t remember who delivered it, or what was said. Fifty-one years from now, you won’t remember what was said here either.
When I graduated in 1960, the only “apples” available were the ones we brought to school in lunch boxes or brown bags.
iPhones didn’t exist. Neither did DirectTV, nor laptop computers or a host of other must-have items.
Back in 1960, my friends and I could get a hamburger, french fries and a soft drink for 45-cents at the first set of Golden Arches that McDonalds built at Hikes Point. Happy meals weren’t on the menu back then.
Everything costs more today. We’re paying four dollars a gallon for gasoline.
In 1960, gas cost 19-cents a gallon at Pilot, a station across Bardstown Road from St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church.
It also costs more to educate a student today. A lot more than it did in 1960.
Friends paid four thousand dollars for their undergraduate degrees at UK. That won’t buy you four week’s worth of education at some universities today. but financial aid is available in many forms.
Many students from my graduating class, including yours truly, took advantage of the GI bill.
With many students coming out of college owing as much as 150 thousand dollars, you might want to see what the military has to offer.
You grow up in the military, and by the time your enlistment is up, you’re ready for college.
My GPA was 1.4 at UK. That was in-excusable for a member of the National Honor Society and the Beta Club who graduated in the top ten percent of my class.
When I returned to the University of Virginia after four years in the Air Force, I made straight A’s.
Dave Schroeder, my best friend in high school had a 0.4 GPA; but went on to get his bachelor’s and master’s in mechanical engineering at Marquette University and retired from the Navy after a distinguished career aboard nuclear powered submarines. As a civilian he helped design the Seawolf Class sub at the Electric Boat Yard in Groton, Connecticut after he retired from active duty.
So don’t give up the ship. There’s hope for you. If the military’s not for you, look into a good community college. That’s another way to save money.
Professional educators are also looking for ways to get the most bang for their buck.
Next year -- schools in Jefferson County, West Virginia are going DIGITAL.
My daughter, who is being groomed to become the associate superintendent of curriculum, says each student will be issued a “Kindle” loaded with electronic textbooks.
Gutenberg, who invented the printing press, is probably turning over in his grave. Textbook publishers are also pushing the panic button; but going paperless is a way to save money and spark interest among students in education.
John Adams, the second President of the United States and one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, said there are two types of education.
“One should teach us how to make a LIVING and the other how to LIVE.”
Members of my father’s generation liked to say they graduated from the “school of hard knocks.”
Comedian Milton Berle, who was also a child of the Great Depression, is quoted as saying, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
In surfing the Internet for some guidance on crafting a commencement address, I came across a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, one of the four faces carved into granite on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
The 26th president of the United States, who took office over one hundred years ago, was a big proponent of education.
Roosevelt said, “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car, but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.”
Roosevelt didn’t advocate a life of crime. He was speaking metaphorically. He meant to say if you have an education, you could own the railroad.
In closing, I would like to quote the late Theodor Seuss Geisel.
The name should be familiar. Geisel is the American writer and cartoonist who wrote and illustrated children’s books you were introduced to by your parents.
Books like “Green Eggs and Ham, Cat In The Hat” and who can ever forget, “The Grinch That Stole Christmas.”
According to “Dr. Seuss,” Geisel’s pen name, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy or girl who’ll decide where to go.”
Go Tigers… and … Go, “Class of 2011.”