Commencement Address 2015

graduation_hat

To the class of 2015
Be A Writer

Thank you for the opportunity to address the graduating class of 2015. It is a privilege to be the guest speaker after having spent so many years sitting in the audiences of my own children’s graduations. Every parent is proud of the accomplishments of their children, but every parent is also a citizen with an eye to the future entrusted to the next generation, hopeful for good citizens, good leadership.

I have listened to dozens of these addresses over the years, not only my own children’s graduations but the graduations of friends and family, all eager to witness their seedlings grow into the sprouted and rooted plantings we dream of when preparing them for the future.

Generally the message at these events is basic in a variety of forms and styles: begin with an anecdote, a joke, the best a personal remembrance, end with the charge which is either change the world or be good human beings in consonance with other human beings, world peace, etc. I am most partial to the change the world scripts.

Graduates of 2015, you probably won’t change the world much. Forget that Margaret Mead quote, or rewrite it as poetry. My generation thought we would change the world too. Save yourselves. Do something honest, gather up a nest egg of money and don’t let the news depress you. All the expressly powerful and most of the famous are nincompoops. Do not pay any attention to them, don’t pay any attention to them at all.

If you must distinguish yourself, become a good criminal. An old school criminal. The criminals nowadays are generally faceless, nameless, and now untraceable.

Our elections are in the pockets of the secret donors who have planned their future security around the takeover of our beloved political process through privately financed groups, mystery backers — generally the corporations motivated by power and profits and idiot self preservationist fringe philosophies — protected by tax-code provisions that do not require disclosure of donors. Now that our Supreme Court has opened the door to the unabashed manipulation of the democracy through anonymous — that is, secret – funding, our crooks are mostly hidden. That is where we have arrived in our noble country: welcome to your future.

Class of 2015, save yourselves. I want to make a case for a return to honest crime. The kind of crime I grew up with. Now those guys were criminals. They smoked cigars and they insulated themselves with payoffs and graft and they barely bothered to hide it. They enjoyed their work.

Smuggle goods over borders, be intimidating as if it’s an exercise in acting class, surround yourself with strong, secure, ruthless people. Protect your community from a storefront that serves great espresso, do favors for people for favors in return. Value friendship and loyalty above all. Create a parallel world where your word rules. Never forget a good turn or don’t miss the opportunities for revenge. Be a good criminal. Let people know what you stand for. Do it publicly and without guile. Smoke a cigar now and again.

Infiltrate honestly. Be a citizen and make the expressed and unexpressed powers answer to you. Don’t let the politicians become too important. They’re the phoniest of all, cowards too fragile to value truth over re-election. Don’t respect their secrecy.

Most of your co-students will become corporate cogs. They will eat well and be completely co-opted by a system everyone knows is driven by self sustenance and self aggrandizement. Let the corporations know you are not afraid of them. Speak truth to power, as we used to say. Be bold. Reclaim optimism through crime. It will be a great gift.

If you can’t be a crook, be a writer. There’s so much inspiration these days as our culture has slid into irrelevance, consumerism, greed, and cynicism. Everyone is so ridiculous you won’t have to make up a thing. When you meet the famous and powerful you will ask yourself the question: Who did they know to get where they are? And: Can you introduce me?

Thank you, and congratulations to the class of 2015.

james stone goodman, united states of america