Well, here you are at your college graduation. And I know what you’re thinking: “Gimme the sheepskin and get me outta here!” But not so fast. First you have to listen to a commencement speech.
Don’t moan. I’m not going to “pass the wisdom of one generation down to the next.” I’m a member of the 1960s generation. We didn’t have any wisdom.
We were the moron generation. We were the generation that believed we could stop the Vietnam War by growing our hair long and dressing like circus clowns. We believed drugs would change everything — which they did, for John Belushi. We believed in free love. Yes, the love was free, but we paid a high price for the sex.
My generation spoiled everything for you. It has always been the special prerogative of young people to look and act weird and shock grown‐ups. But my generation exhausted the Earth’s resources of the weird. Weird clothes — we wore them. Weird beards — we grew them. Weird words and phrases — we said them. So, when it came your turn to be original and look and act weird, all you had left was to tattoo your faces and pierce your tongues. Ouch. That must have hurt. I apologize.
So now, it’s my job to give you advice. But I’m thinking: You’re finishing 16 years of education, and you’ve heard all the conventional good advice you can stand. So, let me offer some relief:
1. Go out and make a bunch of money!
Here we are living in the world’s most prosperous country, surrounded by all the comforts, conveniences and security that money can provide. Yet no American political, intellectual or cultural leader ever says to young people, “Go out and make a bunch of money.” Instead, they tell you that money can’t buy happiness. Maybe, but money can rent it.
There’s nothing the matter with honest moneymaking. Wealth is not a pizza, where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino’s box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich.
2. Don’t be an idealist!
Don’t chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you’ll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That’s $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You’ll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?