Aim High and You Won’t Shoot Your Foot Off


Please welcome Cousin Craig back to Odd! He knows you’ve missed him like craigz! No worries, he plans to stick around for the summer!


Loved one’s are flocking to the university I work for to proudly watch their college investments walk across a stage, collect their diplomas, and mature into a college graduate. Graduation time is a wonderful and momentous celebration.

As our graduates pass through the gateway of college life into their adult lives, I pondered all the changes they will face. Soon I found myself musing about the commencement speech I might give to these young progressives as they sit fidget spinning in their seats, waiting for me to stop talking.

I would like to share my speech with you, Odd readers. Maybe, you’ll add a few bits of your own commencement wisdom to the comments. Please keep in mind that if I sat down to write this speech 100 times, I’d write it 100 different ways. But to the class of 2017, this is what I would say.

“So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell?
Blue skies from pain?
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage? ”

Graduates, distinguished staff, alumni, family, and friends, I thank you for this opportunity. The preceding—for the younger group out there—are words we used to call lyrics. Lyrics went with music to form a thought-provoking tune, commonly referred to as a song (“Wish You Were Here” [Pink Floyd, 1975]). Our songs asked questions (10 by my count in this first stanza) and demanded that while our feet tapped, our minds opened.

Please forgive me if I sound condescending. Really, I’m just old and nostalgic. When we were your age, we had more than our share of “bubble gum” music; however, music you can take out and chew for a while and then stick under your desk is fun, but it will never change the world. Too much bubblegum and all we have left is rotten teeth and sticky desks, and we currently live in a bubblegum world. Don’t believe me? Here is one of my favorite lyrics from recent years. (“All I Do Is Win” [DJ Khaled, 2010]).

“All I do is win, win, win, no matter what.
Got money on my mind, I can never get enough
And every time I step into the building everybody hands go UP!
And they stay there (yeah)
And they say yeah (yeah)
And they stay there
UP down
UP down
UP down
Cause all I do is win, and if you’re goin’ in put your hands in the air and make them stay there.”

Wait. Before you jump up to defend this song, let me remind you that I too enjoy it, but can we agree that “All I do Is Win” doesn’t ask us any hard questions?

There is more variety in the world today, and yet I find fewer risk takers. Why make a film, when you can make a movie? A film doesn’t make millions like a movie does. It makes better people. It’s art. While I enjoy seeing superheroes flying into buildings and space ships exploding as much as the next guy, I think there’s room for some films too. There nothing wrong with a chocolate chip cookie, but occasionally it doesn’t hurt to throw a bit of cinnamon in the mix for a change, you know? Coloring outside the lines is not an art form to the masses, but it reaches the few on a much deeper level.

There is a comedian named Jimmy Carr, who is wonderful, English, and not for the timid. He describes the situation this way:

“I wrote a rom-com. It’s the classic formula. Boy meets girl—classic. At first, they don’t get along—classic. In the end, they’re in bed together—CLASSIC! I called it ‘The Rapist.'”

What I am trying to say is that following the formula isn’t always the best way to go. Once in a while, I love to see someone swing for the fences, and Yes, you will strike out a lot, but you will also hit home runs . . . and chicks dig the long ball.

That brings me full circle, back to the song quoted at the beginning. I urge you, as you head out into the world, to be careful what you wish for before you know heaven from hell. The discomfort you feel today may be the price of tomorrow’s success.

Young ladies, you have opportunities that your mothers and grandmothers didn’t. They paved the way. Make sure no weeds start growing on the pavement. Keep pushing and achieving greatness. Young men, you have the responsibility of living up to your potential in a world where you can do that by force of will. As Lloyd Dobler friends once advised him, “Don’t be a guy. The world’s full of ‘guys.’ Be a man.” Google that, then go be the best version of yourselves possible.

To all of you:  Aim high. Take risks. Set high standards. Don’t sell yourself short.

Thank you for allowing to me to speak to you today. Looking into this audience, I have confidence we can expect greatness from you all.

Odd Loves Company,

6 thoughts on “Aim High and You Won’t Shoot Your Foot Off

  1. Timely comeback Cousin Craig. I just watched my priceless investment mature into a graduate last weekend. Very proud of my girl and a little frightened for her too. Big world at there. She has a job she is excited about and I like to think a firm foundation to go forward on. My wish for her is that she has a life full of adventures while remembering her dear old dad’s heart condition (I don’t have one, but I could)
    Pink Floyd a favorite of mine.
    Have a good one.

  2. Thanks for reading! Congratulations to you and your graduate. Whether transitioning from high school to college, or from college into the “real world” it’s a wonderful time, it’s a terrifying time, and it certainly a time when young people transition from children to adults. Remember that for many young people, especially males, the maturization process isn’t complete until age 25 to 27 (and for me it never really happened). I don’t have children of my own, but I have “adopted” college students moving on every year. It’s scary, but as you say you have given them great roots to grow on. Once again, thanks for reading!

    PS I think I share your heart condition. It’s caused by watching people do things that you warned them about but they did anyway.

  3. Aw, gee, this brings back soooo many wonderful memories when Domer graduated. I’ve always believed it’s a parent’s job to give a kid roots (to ground them) and wings (so they can soar)! Launching an offspring out of the nest and into the world is a challenging undertaking, but once it’s properly done, the feeling is amazing. I’ve found that covering him with prayer is the best way to soothe any worries or fears over what kind of world he’s launching into!!

    • Debbie-
      That sounds like a great attitude; one that he can build on as he goes out into the big, scary world. I had a coach once that said life was a lot like a football game. Play hard, follow the rules, be smart, work well with others, and don’t stop ’til the whistle blows. Oh yeah, and always wear a cup. Best of luck to you and Domer!

  4. It is a bubblegum world with lip smacking all around us. But I also see a world where the young are more involved than I ever was back in day. My granddaughter’s (well into the workforce) held proud signs at the Women’s March. They aren’t just whining about the election but joining the League of Women voters and environmental councils. I thought I had to accept the things I could not change. They hold no such illusions. And it seems many of their friends feel the same way. Perhaps the classes of 2017 will join them. I’m an old lady with high hopes.

  5. Jane-
    Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I have been talking with my niece about the success of the “Wonder Woman” movie and she was saying that she heard something that she thought applied on a blog. They said it was the first time young girls could go to a movie and have the main Super Hero be more like them than ever before. I would have never thought that way, being a white male, because it harder to notice when it doesn’t effect you directly. The young are going out and achieving, being socially conscious, and stretching the boundaries set before them. It’s great to hear that you are seeing some of the same things. Thanks for reading!

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