I look out over these rows of eager faces turned toward me with self-assurance, not one brow wrinkled, eyes bright with confidence in the rosy dawn of tomorrow’s inexhaustible sun and it reminds me of a joke. And that was it. Not a good joke, I grant you, unless you’re old and crabby, in which case it kills. Ask your parents. I remember what it was like (to remember what it was like) to be young and accelerated like you. We needed brakes. We thought we could do it all by steering. Instead, we got so far from one true path we can’t find our way back. Commencement speakers before the millennium scared us with warheads and spooks. That won’t work on you. Bombs are for board games. You live in the age of the unthinkable and you know it. It’s already commenced and you know it. We are targets and we live to be killed as symbols. Start running, graduates. You’ll either die of something unimaginable or, at age one hundred, still be stumbling through storms of ash, inoculated against final death, trailing the collective dread of your class and country. Our enemies have time to plan and nothing better to do. Think you can wage war on terror? You’re breathing it now. Soon you’ll be eating it. Imagine a species allergic to itself; that’s the future you enter when you move that tassel to the other side of the mortarboard. Suppose they unplug the grid, not for three hours, for the rest of your life. When all the lights go out—I mean all the lights!—will you even remember how to make flame, or will you start feeding on whatever raw thing happens your way? Of course, there’s always law school. Thank you for your time.

Copyright © July 03, 2007 David Hodges