If my father could talk to all college grads

Posted: June 5, 2012 in About my Father
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I have a degree in English, but it is a track of English that centered itself on 17th Century Literature.  This means that almost all of my English electives were spent in Shakespeare, Milton, or survey courses of the great writers of the era.  It was an awesome time and I really got to know some great professors.  However, I do not write this to brag, I write this to tell you what it qualifies me to do.  After receiving this four-year degree, I left college with great confidence that I could either be a waiter or an officer in the Marine Corps; I chose the latter.  Luckily, my wife has a degree in History, so our combined potential for success as is measured by monetary value is nil; this is not how I gauge success, however. 

You see the cool thing about a bachelor’s degree in general is that they are almost worthless.  Now couple that with it being a bachelor of liberal arts and you have your own license to irrelevance.  This is not to say that I don’t love my education, because I do.  It has given me a unique ability to smugly reference mundane quotes from the lesser read Shakespeare plays or sonnets.  Also, it has allowed me a certain pretentious ere of self righteousness when I say things to smarter people than me. 

I remember when I told my father what I was going to major in.  He, being a supportive and always positive individual, was quick to explain to me that I was “wasting my time,” and he continued with, “but that fact alone isn’t too surprising.”  That’s as close as you get to “I like it” from my Pops.  Well with all of the graduations, there are equally great commencement speeches.  It had me thinking about my dad’s comments to me on life and education.  I believe graduates of today are getting the shaft because they didn’t get to hear a commencement speech from my father.  So I offer it to you.  Pass it along to any you know getting ready to start life after school.  This is what I imagine it would be like if he were given the opportunity to speak.

Kids.  And I intentionally call you kids, because that is what you are to me; you are children.  It is not meant to insult you or make you feel inferior to me, albeit you are young and uneducated on the hardships of life, it is meant to let you see who you are.  You are children.  What makes you this, you ask?  Children all have one motivation.  It pervades everything they do.  Initially, it is not a bad thing.  We, as parents play on it so that we can solicit good behavior through incentive based training.  It is simple; children all seek the most immediately gratifying route—what is the most rewarding course of action with the least work and time required to reap the reward.  Those of you who shed this first will be productive.  Those of you who don’t, will not.  I don’t care if you believe me or not.  I expect you won’t, because you are children and you know everything.  For years my own children have relayed one important lesson to me:  given advice from a man like me, mature, aged, learned in the ways of hardship, struggle and adversity, you will discount the advice as jaded cynicism.  Fine, you are children and you are unbridled in your foolishness, I accept that. 

You’re here today to get your degrees and run off into the real world, but you wanted advice, right?  You asked me to be here.  Don’t just sit there, I asked you a question, but don’t speak into my left ear, I can’t hear shit out of it.  Well I already alluded to everything you need to know.  You want to pursue your dreams, great, go do it.  I am not here to kill your desires.  I am here to say one thing and that is, BE PRODUCTIVE MEMBERS IN SOCIETY.  Do your best to not leech off of others’ production.  I know you are all a bunch of liberals and that you are borderline communists.  Fine, I accept that, you are young and unbridled in your foolishness, but please remember this.  Even communism relies on the productivity of its citizens to succeed.  For a communist society to have any lasting power, every member must contribute in some way, shape, or form.  While you kids hide behind communism as a way to prop yourselves up, you’re missing the point.  Run from the idea that the world owes you something, because the world has a weird way of kicking you right in the ass while you wait.  I have given my son the same advice since he was old enough to piss me off, and here it is.  “Get a haircut and find a job.” 

I have raised productive kids; none of them are rich, but they are productive.  I don’t believe any of them feel like I shattered their dreams, but the fact is, none of them call me for money.  They have homes and families and kids and all of things that matter.  If you ask me why they are successful I would tell you that it started when they stopped whining and started doing.  They became productive.  I didn’t raise robots.  My youngest daughter is an insane liberal, but she is a productive and insane liberal.  My middle daughter writes romance novels about gay men, and I have read them and they are great.  She is not rich, but she is productive.  My son somehow developed a backbone and some balls and became a Marine….so far, so good.   They married productive people—people who all do great things with great attitudes.  They are not perfect, they are productive.

And here is another secret.  Don’t stop being productive.  You get older, your bones hurt and you want to stop.  I promise you this:  when you stop producing, you will stop living.  So, go on.  Get out of here.  Go and do.  Don’t waste your time standing around here, leave!   If you want to be a socialist, great, go be productive while doing it.  Remember that sometimes we do what we have to do, so that one day, we can do what we want.  The road we want sometimes doesn’t marry up with the road we have to travel.  Suck it up, be a man, get a haircut, and find a job…I just want you to know this, because I have been holding it in for years….

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Comments
  1. samanthaeden says:

    Great post. I graduated last month with a degree in English, and most of the people that have asked me what I graduated with have given me a look and told me that it will be tough to get a job. Your comment about an undergraduate degree being worthless resonates with me because someone once told me that a “degree is a degree” at that stage, and they were right. There is little difference between my English degree and a degree that someone else received.

    • haphillips says:

      Well, Samanthaeden, don’t take me too seriously, your degree is worth something. Firstly, you took the time to get it and this in itself shows some sticktoitiveness. I respect your English degree, I think you just need to be real about what you expect to get from it. Your ability to write will make you stand out, so be excited.

  2. Do you really have a sister who writes romance novels about gay men?

    Okay, I’m quickly getting off track here, but I think I love your dad already. The fact that his imaginary commencement speech is really all about communism is just priceless… Oh, and I majored in English too… which explains why I’m currently back in school… getting a degree in nursing which is far more practical.

    And my husband’s Bachelor’s degree was also in history…

    • haphillips says:

      I absolutely do. S E Cullpepper. She has two novels out, and she is pretty cool people! Dude, I think we both referenced awesome economic principals! We are samezies.

  3. Off My Chest says:

    Hilarious. I think we are related somewhere way back on my Mother’s side of the family…

  4. For the record my stalker status just raised 10 levels. I just downloaded one of your sister’s books to my NOOK. I may need an intervention

  5. […] 10. His stories about his father make me laugh so hard I sometimes snort. […]

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