A message to new grads and an apology from those who messed things up

Published 12:40 am Sunday, April 22, 2012

I’m impatiently waiting on the invitation to be keynote speaker at graduation ceremonies. The delay in mail delivery — yes, that’s it — is about five years. Change of address snafu, perhaps?

Although most graduations occur in May, I happily claim myself as a non-traditionalist. So, in my best non-traditional way, I send this message to our graduates:

Good morning graduates. Please sit down.

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Let’s be blunt and honest: You are entering a hailstorm of what the great baseball announcer Mel Allen referred to as “road apples.” The work that will have to be done thanks to my generation — and the one before mine — is mountainous. We have run up the country’s credit card to the point where every person in this room — and the children you one day will have — is on the hook.

We owe so much money that either the printing presses eventually will shut down from overuse or we will have to look our creditors in the eyes and say, “so sorry.” The debt, and a nation addicted to spending habits that would make a drunken sailor blush, has us all on the road to ruin. All great civilizations eventually get “too big for their britches” and crumble and we are on that path, but it is correctable.

But we have lost our way. The rich are demonized for being successful, while those less fortunate are portrayed as helpless victims who cannot function without the federal government. The necessary safety net has become a national crutch — with too many occupants. A safety net is necessary to catch those falling, but once the swoon has been stopped, the idea is to claw up and out of that net, not lie back and take up space.

Get out of the net. Claw and scrape. Get injured doing it. Every step on the road to personal freedom will do nothing but strengthen your resolve to carry on to be the best, most productive person you can be. Don’t let people say you cannot do it. Don’t let them say you are a victim because of circumstance, or the way you were raised, or the that there is little left over each week for all the desired extras. The best motivation for success is failure, but too many are trying to eliminate failure from life.

Failure is good, though, as long as it does not fester. Failure must be turned into desire, drive and leadership. And right now, we have no leadership. America needs leadership more than at any time during my lifetime. We are a nation full of self-interested politicians whose goal is re-election. The key to that re-election is giving goodies to the constituents, not making tough, unpalatable — yet necessary — choices. The people are happy to oblige in the indulgences, hands extended toward Washington, D.C. Hence, we are where we are.

Graduates, hope is not lost. The days ahead will be filled with potholes and land mines. We can continue the path to which we find ourselves, or have a generation who believes that America is worth the fight. For years, Americans have lived high on the hog with limited thought to the future — your future, when people like me will be dead and gone. We all owe you an apology.

I wish you luck — you will need it — as you prepare for the next stage of your life. I hope you become the leaders this nation so desperately needs.

If not, hundreds of years from now high school and college students will read about what once was America.

The alternative is a thriving, free country where you can make it on your own sweat, your own blood and your own tears. And when you fail — yes, you will fail — and land in that safety net, fear not, because there is a way out. When you emerge stronger and better than when you fell, what a feeling it will be.

In closing, I implore you to lead the rescue of an ailing nation. My generation has shown that it is incapable of making such tough decisions.

The future depends on it.

Thank you.