Dale Dauten: Speaker, Author, Innovation Consultant [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Second Annual Commencement Address I'll Never Be Asked To Give

Thank you. It is an honor to be here at Dead Alumni Auditorium on the campus of Ordinary State University to speak to the Class of 1997.

Well, graduates... bad news: Where you're going, the semester never ends.

And while my little speech will do no good -- nothing important can be taught, only learned -- we are all here, and the caterers need time to put out the punch and the cocktail wienies, so I will go ahead and tell you what I have learned in the quarter-century since I sat in your place, swaying my head to admire the swing of my tassel, ignoring my own commencement speaker.

First off, be grateful for your education, but understand not only what it does FOR you -- this you already know -- but what it has done TO you. You're smart people and so you figured out many years ago that most of your courses were entirely irrelevant information. And when you inquired as to why you should memorize useless facts, you were told that what you were "learning to learn."

I'm sad to report back that it isn't true. What you learned wasn't how-to-learn, but to recite, to get by, to work the system. School is to learning what "Cliff's Notes" is to literature. You learned to lip-sync knowledge.

I say this not to offend you, but to help you understand that your graduation is a triumph of conformity, not freedom. TO understand that this is true, look at what the university is doing to your professors. Wonderful, bright, good-natured people are attracted to teaching at a university... and then dissauded from doing what attracted them to the job. No, the classroom is ultimately a distraction, an intrusion on research.

We force our brilliant young intellectuals to pass their brains through the eye of a needle in massive essay contests, filling our libraries with their intellectual macrame. A university was once thought of as a place for free-thinkers. Not now. The thinking is never free; it is both expensive and shackled.

In the absence of free thinking, college has become vo-tech for bureaucrats. A diploma proves that you are already a card-carrying bureaucrat, that you are willing to do what you are told for years at a time. Thus, you are qualified to work for major corporations.

And when you go to the Placement Office, think about the sort of companies that would want to come to a university to hire employees. Ask yourself, If these corporations are such a great places to work, why are they the only ones other than the Army to have "recruiters"?

If you want to live your own way, it is important to understand that those who make a difference are non-conformists, rugged individualists. What school prepares you for is a life as a hard-working non-individualist, a rugged conformist.

You arrive at this day, ill-prepared for the lifelong struggle against conformity. Refuse to concede. Start by refusing to take the obvious job, the one that pays the most. You've heard that old lie about "the most toys wins." Change the "t" in "toys" to a "j" and you'll be closer. And if you have to give up a few thousand dollars a year to join a small lively organization, remember that each $1000 in salary is only about two dollars a day, take-home. Would you lay a five-dollar bill on the dresser every day in order to have a lively, energizing career?

So, my friends, if you want to have a chance to slip the bonds of bureaucracy, you will have to look beyond the Placement Office. You will have to search among the oddballs and black sheep, among those whose shoes aren't shined and smiles aren't rehearsed. No, do not go in search of a job, but an inspiration. Find a leader, a guide. Find friends. Look until you discover true individuals and then plead with them to take you in. After all, the next semester never ends.

Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, King Features Syndicate

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