Murray's Graduation speech 04 .:. Go Up



Here is the outline of my speech – what was on the piece of paper I had in my hands.  As I am not totally sure what words came out of my mouth, the expanded version below is what I intended to say, but it is not a transcript of the speech.  Click here to get the 77.3 Mb   .wmv   video file that Paul Pham took.


Outline .:. Top


Graduation speech



Thought back to other graduation speeches.  Couldn’t remember anything. 


So, I have five minutes, a lifetime of advice, and you’re not paying attention.  – so here goes.  Random advice starting from very early in my life:




May the road rise to meet you

May the wind be at your back.

May the rain fall soft upon your fields, and

Until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Expanded Version .:. Top

This is either what I said, or what I intended to say:


            As I thought back to my own graduation speeches, graduation from high school, from college, from the University of Minnesota, Graduation from Portland State University,  (I graduated Summa Come Later) I realized that I didn’t remember anything.  Not a word that was said.  I couldn’t even remember who spoke.  So I think it is like this:  I have five to ten minutes, a lifetime of advice, and you might not remember what I say.  So here it is – random advice from my life starting early on.  I will leave it up to you to figure out whether I got these right the first time through.

            As cool as it might sound to you, don’t create a turtle habitat including dirt, mud, sand, rocks, sticks, little fish and five painted turtles in the downstairs bathtub.  Your mom will freak when she sees it.

            If you are leading a canoe trip whose sole purpose is to shoot whitewater, and you pick a river that has many fine stretches of whitewater, cleverly plan your route so that your trip takes you downstream on that river.  Downstream.

            Have babies.  Have babies.  (Not right now – wait a bit)  It’s the single best thing I have done in my life.  I have these two people about this tall, and they love me.  They laugh at the funniest things, and take the funniest things so seriously.  They’re a hoot.  I get to experience my own childhood again through their eyes.  (not that that’s much of a stretch for me!)

            Don’t kill yourself.  I mean that literally.  Don’t kill yourself.  My very best friend in high school – a guy that could complete my sentences – broke up with his girlfriend two weeks before I was to graduate, went home, put a rifle in his mouth, and pulled the trigger.  You would think that that would kill you pretty fast – but he crawled across the room, and took the phone off the hook.  What I want you to do is call someone first.  Call a friend, call me – I don’t care if it is three in the morning – call someone before you kill yourself.  Give yourself a second opinion.  Suicide might make sense to you at some point in your life – but it will never make sense to anyone who loves you.

            Do kill your television.  You know how they say that time spent fishing is not deducted from your lifespan – well let me tell you that time spent watching television is deducted from your lifespan.  Your brain is more active when you are asleep than when you are watching television.  There is more goin’ on up here when you are fast asleep, than when you are watching television.  Ok – so you have to watch that one show.  Limit yourself to one or two hours a week.  Not a night – a week.  There is nothing on television worth more than two hours a week of your time.  What are you going to do with all your free time?  Read a book.  Write a book.  Build something with wood.  Exercise.  Learn to speak a foreign language.  Learn to play a musical instrument.  Spend your life doing, not watching.

            And for gosh sake don’t let your children watch TV.  These are young minds that need to interact with their environment.  They need to find out how things work, they need to experiment with things – even interact with you.  Besides – what if a politician comes on the TV while you’re not around, and speaks to your child – and your child believes them!?

            Get a job you love.  You are going to spend a lot of time doing your job.  (I get paid to tape firecrackers to rocket cars!)

            Travel to different countries.  I really haven’t done this – but doesn’t that sound good!?  Not much yet, anyhow.

            Don’t have casual sex.  (yes – I said that)  Don’t have casual sex.  The TV show “Friends” is make believe.  If you cannot wait until you are married, wait until you are with someone you plan to marry.  Value that part of your life more than that.

            Write to your grandparents.  If your grandparents are still in the picture they are a gift to you.  You know them now as kids.  Get to know them as adults.  I don’t know what made me do this, but when I was in college I started writing letters to my grandmother.  I would set aside 15 minutes a week to write a letter while I drank a cup of coffee.  At first I wrote really trivial stuff, but we eventually got into matters of the heart.  I learned that she was the daughter of a Montana rancher.  If you have read the book “This House of Sky” by Ivan Doig – that’s pretty much the setting she grew up in.  If you haven’t read that book – that’s what you can do with all your free time.  It is a painfully beautiful book.  “This House of Sky” by Ivan Doig.  My grandmother was a radical feminist.  A radical feminist.  Her radical cause was to allow women to vote.  1920 folks.  Women have spent more time not voting in this country than voting.  Maybe the next radical cause should be to allow all the people in Florida to vote!

            Don’t spend more than you can pay off in one month on your credit card.  You are going to get a credit card with a ten thousand dollar credit limit.  That’s not your money.  If you cannot pay it off when you get the bill, don’t spend it.

            How ‘bout this – when you graduate from college – don’t buy a new car.  You can’t afford a new car!  Buy a used car with cash, and put that payment into the bank where it earns interest.  When you have enough money – you go and buy that new car.

            Finally on a more philosophical note – there is no preparation for life – only life itself.  Cooking is not something you hurry through so that you can eat.  Enjoy the cooking.  Buy good utensils, quality ingredients, and give yourself time to enjoy the cooking.  If you go on a hike, and you are always thinking about the business meeting as you hike, you’re really not on that hike, are you?  Be in the moment.  That’s where your life is happening.

            A Buddhist philosopher once said that you should treat each part of your life with the respect it should have if it were the only time that particular thing will happen.  This is of course true.  You cannot run time backward.  My daughter still loves to read Winnie the Pooh.  I just love these books, but I realize that she won’t always want to read them with me, so every time I read them to her, I treat that time as my last time.  I do my very best job.  I use different voices for the different characters.

            This is not your preparation for life – your life started 18 years ago, and I hope you continue to live if for a long time.



May the road rise to meet you

May the wind be at your back.

May the rain fall soft upon your fields, and

Until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.