Tag Archives: Graduation Speakers


Do you know what I discovered last week?  Tis the season for graduations and their illustrious speakers.  Everyone from President Obama to Lin-Manuel Maranda (Alexander Hamilton), from Spike Lee to Steven Spielberg, from Condoleezza Rice to Seth Myers answered the call—all urging our graduates to become their best selves for the future, knowing full well that none of them has a clue what the future holds.

Spread your wings and Fly Pat Bagley Salt Lake Tribune

Cartoon used by permission: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune/Cagle Cartoons 

It got me to thinking about graduation speeches I would like to hear—especially during these unhinged political times.  So many of us who are old now look back on the times we graduated from high school and college, and we wished someone had told us the truth about what was so come.  Some of us would go to a war we didn’t believe in and die way to soon, some would get hooked on drugs, some would marry, divorce, and marry again—looking for love in all the wrong places—and most of us would live “lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”  (Thank you Thoreau!)

Which is why, if I could choose a graduation speaker, I would choose Lucifer.  Wait.  Hear me out.  What better entity—the Hoover vacuum of men’s souls—to bring a huge dose of reality to the graduation circuit of 2016 amidst all the Oprahesque “You can do anything you put your minds to—just believe.”   Can you imagine . . .

Honest Commencement Speech David Fitzsimmons The Arizona Star

Cartoon used by permission: David Fitzsimmons The Arizona Star/Cagle Cartoons




To the presidents of high schools and colleges here there and everywhere, the boards of trustees of these illustrious, rather ill-informed institutions, faculty and staff, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, family and friends who sacrificed their hard-earned money, time, and attention for 2016’s glut of graduates across our great nation—as well as the illustrious graduates themselves—I want to thank you for allowing me to speak to you and thus set the record straight on behalf of reality.

Before I proceed, let me introduce myself.  My name is Lucifer.  Some of you might know me by different nomenclature:  Satan, Beelzebub, Old Mr. Grim, Sneaky Snake, Abaddon, Father of Lies, The Deceiver, The Lawless One, and my favorite—King of the Bottomless Pit.  Many of you have no idea who I am, although I’ve been stalking you since you were born, but there are a few of you who started walking on the wild side in high school who are well acquainted with me.  (Hey, whatz up, Joel, Nadine, LeShaun, Kimmy Huang, and Ricardo?  Party at my place tonight?  Excellent!)

I wasn’t invited by anyone to speak today, but as is my wont, I decided to just take over and force my opinion on you all because your graduation speakers—for the most part—don’t know what the hell they are talking about.  They have failed—as they do every year—to let you know that life is kick-ass hard!  You’ve just spent the last four years in Paradise, and you’ve learned nothing that will help you withstand the many onslaughts I plan to throw your way during your journey. These were the best years of your life, and it is pretty much all downhill after this because adulthood sucks—bigtime.

Graduation Meme

Google Meme

Oh, I grant you that there were a couple of inspiring commencement messages if you are into that sort of thing, but you weren’t listening—the young rarely do.  President Obama’s speech at Howard University was one I have to begrudgingly give a shout-out to when he said:

“We cannot sleepwalk through life. We cannot be ignorant of history. We can’t meet the world with a sense of entitlement. We can’t walk by a homeless man without asking why a society as wealthy as ours allows that state of affairs to occur. . . We have cousins and uncles and brothers and sisters who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were, but somehow got ground down by structures that are unfair and unjust.”

Blah, blah, blah, blah . . .

Of course, Steven Spielberg should probably be given credit for his commencement speech at Harvard that some people might say threw shade on me:

“Love, support, courage, intuition. All of these things are in your hero’s quiver, but still, a hero needs one more thing: A hero needs a villain to vanquish. And you’re all in luck. This world is full of monsters. And there’s racism, homophobia, ethnic hatred, class hatred, there’s political hatred, and there’s religious hatred.”

“A hero needs a villain to vanquish . . .” Okay, Mr. Spielberg, I see how it is.  What did I ever do to you? (Oh, yeah, there was that Holocaust thing and the anti-Semitism that’s on the rise again . . . Sheesh, some people are so touchy.)   Well, students of 2016, I know something about vanquishing villains because I am the consummate villain—the great character assassinator.  If you’re going to defeat me you’re going to need two things:  empathy (“the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”) and critical thinking (“the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment”).

Standardized Tests Parker Florida Today

Cartoon used by permission: Parker, Florida Today/Cagle Cartoons

But “thinking” ain’t never gonna happen for most of youYour education did not teach you to think.  You were taught how to take tests—make the grades.  In fact, according to the latest statistics from a confidential poll, 74% of you cheated in high school to make the grades you got to get you into these fine universities that many of you cheated in at some point in your tenure (at least once or twice) in order to graduate in excellent standing to get the great, well-paying jobs you now covet.   And as to empathy, you’re the “selfie” generation, remember?  Kim Kardashian was your favorite professor. [A few boos can be heard in the audience.]

Don’t believe me?  Okay, case in point.  Your first act of official grown-up business will be to vote in November.  You have a Republican nominee (Donald Trump), who says that he can be all things to all men just so long as they are not Mexicans, Arabs, ugly women, and people who challenge him or contradict something he has said.  (Talk about a man with no empathy.)  He has promised to “make America great again”—translation: when “White was might and always right.”  He, himself, is being exposed as a cheater and a liar due to his duplicitous dealings with something that he dubbed “Trump University.”

Trump Fraud David Fitzsimmons The Arizona Star

Cartoon used by permission: David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star/Cagle Cartoons

Now “The Donald” is one of my best students, by the way—he can lie like no other.  Passed “Lying 101” with flying colors.  The Huffington Post assigned five reporters to comb through Donald’s presidential debate answers and they found “71 separate instances in which Trump made a claim that was inaccurate, misleading or deeply questionable.”  “. . . basically one falsehood every 169 words, or 1.16 falsehoods every minute,” the reporters said.

What makes you think you won’t fall for my disciple’s crap?  I was at the graduation ceremony of your 54th Speaker of the House when he graduated from Miami University of Ohio in 1992.  Smart, squeaky clean, good upstanding Christian who wanted to be President of the United States someday.  I thought he was incorruptible. He slipped right under my radar in 1992 as someone who would eventually be working for me, but I just got a report in from my peeps that he sold his soul to me the other day in exchange for a measly conservative agenda even though he swore he’d never capitulate and “accept ugliness as the norm.”  Sweet!  Only a remnant of the GOP has refused to affix their lips to The Donald’s ass, but the majority (even John McCain—the war hero who The Donald besmirched) have surrendered their souls because staying in power means more to them than good character.

30 pieces of silver Nate Beeler The Columbus Dispatch

Cartoon used by permission: Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch/Cagle Cartoons

And don’t get me started on your religious leaders who claim to be the “keepers of the American way.”  For instance, did you know that on June 21st my man, Donald, will meet with 500 of your most prominent evangelical leaders?  According to the Daily Beast, they will include such illustrious folks as “Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, radio host James Dobson and the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Ronnie Floyd.”  They say the meeting is about getting more comfortable with Donald Trump as their standard bearer, I say it will be a meeting where they murder what little character they have left in exchange for power—power to pick the next several Supreme Court Justices (and to ensure they are conservative), power to thwart the equality advancements for the LGBT community, and power to overthrow women’s rights.  They want assurance that they will have a candidate to beat the Democrat.  The uber-Christians want to win so badly that they don’t even know they are being played.

Did you know that according to Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast, the “Donald J. Trump Foundation contributed $100,000 in 2012 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and in 2013 gave $10,000 each to the Family Leader, an influential Iowa evangelical group, and to Samaritan’s Purse,”—setting the stage years ago for The Donald’s (or should I say, my) manipulation and purchase of the souls of your prominent Conservative Evangelicals.  Well played Donald, my disciple—well played!

Can you hear me?  Do you get the gist of what I’m saying?  You have the power to vanquish a villain as soon as November 2016 if you look up from your cell phones.   Of course, the best way to ensure evil’s inevitable victory through Donald Trump is to simply do nothing.

Kool Aid Time Steve Sack The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Cartoon used by permission: Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune/Cagle Cartoons

That said, thank you all for your time.  This is the last piece of “free advice” I give you.  Everything costs, so don’t expect me to do this again.   I must run now.  I need to get back to roaming the Earth and seeking whom I may devour.  I’m sure I’ll be seeing many of you again throughout your lifetimes and especially at the end of your days which will be a lot sooner than you think.  (I know that’s hard for you to imagine because you’re young, and you think you’ll never die.)  In any case, the fastest way to get in touch with me is to murder your character and hit 666 on the speed dial of your phone after you do so.  I’ll come running . . .



I am discovering that I agree with Founding Father Thomas Paine that “these are the times that try men’s souls.”  He was saying it about the late 1700s, but it has been true since the birth of man, and it is true today.  There hasn’t been a time in the history of man when humans didn’t have to pay a steep price in order to choose to do the right thing.  We, the Baby Boomers, sacrificed ourselves to figure out the science to put men on the moon, gave our lives to bring about civil rights and women’s rights, declared war on poverty, defused the cold war, bought a fruitless land war in East Asia to an end, gave the world personal computers and cell phones, and of course, turned music inside out by giving the Universe the Beatles, the Bee Gees, Bob Dylan, and Motown.  But we are getting old, and sometimes old people sell their souls for a little peace and quiet and the assurance that they will be given nostalgic tickets to the “good ol’ days.”  We need the next generation to shake up our world just as we did our parent’s generation.  Let us hope that our children and grandchildren will “rise up” and do the right things to make our world a better place.  If they do, we will have taught them well.

Graduate Safety Net Bob Englehart CagleCartoons com

Cartoon used by permission: Bob Englehart,


“. . . all of us as leaders can hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity and decency . . . we shouldn’t accept ugliness as the norm.”—Paul Ryan in March before he sold his soul to the Devil

 “I think this is a different election; this is a different time in American history. You can’t have it both ways. … I just can’t believe there isn’t another candidate, at this point, that they would say, ‘You know what, I’d rather go down behind the right person than sell out America, my principles and everything I’ve worked for all my life to get behind somebody who I don’t believe in.’”—Mika Brzezinski’s reaction to Paul Ryan’s endorsement of Donald Trump

“At Liberty [University] last week, Trump, who identifies as a Presbyterian, drew laughter when he called the Bible’s Second Corinthians ‘Two Corinthians.’ Many evangelical leaders have criticized his admitted extramarital affairs and failure to ever ask for God’s forgiveness, but Falwell today called him ‘a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again.”—J.C. Derrick, World

 “Today, you start down the path of becoming the generation on which the next generation stands. And I’ve imagined many possible futures in my films, but you will determine the actual future. And I hope it’s filled with justice and peace.” Filmmaker Steven Spielberg/Commencement address to Harvard’s Class of 2016.




Ali Bob Englehart CagleCartoons com

Cartoon used by permission: Bob Englehart,



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Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on June 4, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Graduation Speaker: At Your Service

Do you know what I’ve discovered about the May/June season that has become more problematic than pollen?  Previously scheduled graduation speakers are dropping like flies due to protests of a very vocal minority—sometimes started by alumni with too much time on their hands.  Rutgers invited and then lost Condoleezza Rice, Smith wooed and misplaced Christine Lagarde, and Haverford pursued and finally said good-bye to Robert Birgeneau (Bush’s Secretary of State, Head of the International Monetary Fund, and previous Chancellor of the University of Berkeley, respectively).  Now, none of these “off-with-their-heads” speakers do I agree with politically or ethically, but they have led interesting lives that I might learn something from, if only how not to live.  Let’s just say that if I could listen to a graduation speech by Mitt Romney at Liberty University in 2012 and come away with something positive (“after hearing that speech, now I know he’ll never get my vote”), I think the Rutgers, Smith, Haverford crowd could have engaged in the same act of openness in the vote for educational toleration.

Commencement Speaker Nate Beeler The Columbus Dispatch

Used by Permission Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

After the brouhaha over the choosing of the First Lady as the graduation speaker for a high school in Topeka, Kansas and Puff Daddy (Sean Combs) as a speaker for Howard University (he knocked it out of the park, by the way), one commentator noted that soon only Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy will meet the standards of acceptable graduation speakers in the future because you’ll always run the risk of pissing somebody off.   It was upon reading the commentator’s assessment that I had a brain fart:  Why don’t I become a substitute graduation speaker?  I used to be a substitute teacher so I’m used to turning on a dime.   I’d be the kind that could slip into place when a school, college, or university loses a former Secretary of State or a FLOTUS as a speaker, and they need someone at the last minute.  I could use a seasonal job now that I’m retired, and since I’m nobody, I could crawl in under the PC wire.  Plus, the selection committee could get me cheap, and I wouldn’t even ask for an honorary degree.  Condi Rice was charging $35,000 and a degree—I’d settle for considerably less (just my weight in bling).

Upon thinking it over for a couple of days, I pulled together a standard graduation speech, and I have started shopping it around: so far no nibbles.

Commencement Speech David Fitzsimmons The Arizona Star

Used by Permission:  David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star






President (FILL IN THE BLANK), Chairperson (FILL IN THE BLANK), Distinguished Guests, Faculty, Staff and Graduates of the Class of 2014:  It is such an honor to stand before you today and humbly share my view from the top of the last drop off the roller coaster ride of life because that is what recommends me to you.  I will be sixty-six-years-old in two weeks, and I figure—if I’m lucky—I’ve got about twenty good years left in me and then it’s goodnight Irene.  I am nobody, but I am a survivor and an overcomer, and I’ve learned some things about this crazy-ass life along the way.

To the Graduates:  Take a good look at your parents.  Right now your moms and pops, who haven’t slept easily since you were born, and who mortgaged their souls to educate you, look as dumb as rocks to you.  They just got comfortable posting pictures on Facebook, Twitter is barely navigable, and most of them are asking you, “What the Hell is Vine—I just got used to Instagram?”  But ten or twelve years from now, on the roller coaster ride of life, you will look back at them six cars behind you with great appreciation for their courage and wisdom (unless you’ve been raised by wolves—then all bets are off).  Because you’ll begin to realize that making your way on the planet Earth is some scary, Freddy Krueger shit [if high school graduation speech, substitute the word “stuff”].

To the Parents:  Do not let these people back in your house.  It’s time to have sex again without falling asleep in the midst of it because you’re so tired from being cook, counselor, coach, chauffer, play-date event planner, laundress, and housekeeper for them.  It’s time to reclaim their bedroom as your office and your “besides” (what you are besides being a mother or a father) while your mind is still functioning and your body remembers how to do the wild thing.  Don’t get me wrong:  help them with rent and groceries if needed, and invite them to dinner once a week so they won’t starve if you want, but if you become the default position when times get a little hard, they will be 55 before leaving home and will never become what you are:  overcomers and survivors.  You must help them stand on their own two feet ASAP because after the final roller coaster dip toward the great beyond in your life, you won’t be here to rescue them anyway.  Then what are they going to do?

Graduates Beginning Pat Bagley Salt Lake Tribune

Used by Permission: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune 

To the Graduates:  To openly steal from Scott Peck of The Road Less Traveled fame, recognize that life is hard (very, very hard), but once you make peace with that truth, you’ll be okay, and you’ll be able to handle the suffering that is sure to come your way on both an individual and a national level.  On the other hand, there is no use worrying about what type of suffering will be your portion in life because none of the things we usually obsess about actually happen to us.  I know—it’s one of life’s conundrums.

To the Parents:  I’m not going to lie to you—worries about the suffering that our children might face on their journey as adults (debilitating loneliness and assault being two of the worst fears) is the stuff that will turn you gray overnight and keep you awake for days on end.  As parents, we secretly hope we’ve given our kids all they need to secure their mental health so that we never get one of those awful phone calls telling us our children have self-destructed or harmed another human being.  Unfortunately, there is no escape from these feverish nightmares (did we give them too much, did we not give them enough?).  Prayer helps a great deal, but the burden of worrying about their safety was all part of the owners’ manual we received when they were born—Taking Responsibility for Your Kid (Section 2B)—and it doesn’t stop when they turn eighteen.  (I know—I was surprised as you!)  It is what it is.  Sleeping aids help.

To the Graduates:  Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or making a fool of yourself, for that matter—it happens to the best of us and it is—by-and-large—survivable.  Think of the most embarrassing thing that could happen to you at this age (cutting the cheese while giving a presentation before the head of the department of your new job, perhaps, because you’re a nervous wreck and you mistakenly ate a questionable hot dog with sauerkraut before the meeting).  Remember that “this too shall pass” and you will live.  Should this happen, learn how to laugh at yourself as quickly as possible, realize that you will not die, and make a vow to never, ever, eat anything from the shady guy who owns the mystery meat stand outside your building.  Don’t worry—this will only happen once, because the lesson will be so engrained in your psyche that you’ll never repeat the humiliating mistake of eating said hot dogs again. That is how life lessons are learned.  Also, this may be a destiny sea-change—your segue into stand-up comedy, maybe.  Know that everything happens for a reason. Humor is a must and not taking yourself too seriously is a vital key to your success in life.

Graduate Jobs John Darkow Columbia Daily Tribune Missouri

Used by Permission: John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri

To All the Teachers, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, Friends, and extended family:  Thank you!  The cliché is worth repeating: It really does take a village.

To the Graduates—A final word:  You are part of something bigger than yourselves and making it your personal quest to explore your individual spiritual journeys will make the difference between a life well lived and one that is not.  You were also born for this time and place—you have a destiny.  Don’t let anyone steal that truth from you.  Even if you were born in a toilet—your life is valuable and needed to complete the tapestry of those who will lead us on into the next phase of our history as a nation.  You’re not a mistake and you’re not an accident.  But you do have choices and none of them will be insignificant.  Choose wisely, grasshopper!  Be brave, be courageous, and know that you’ll receive everything you need to fulfill your destiny as you travel to all the places you will need to go to have a thrilling purpose-filled life.


Dr. Seuss Oh the places you'll go

Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go



“Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new…. Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition.”—Steve Jobs/Stanford 2005

“Be compassionate to everyone. Don’t just search for whatever it is that annoys and frightens you — see beyond those things to the basic human being. Especially see the child in the man or woman. Even if they are destroying you, allow a moment to see how lost in their own delusion and suffering they are.”Alice Walker, Author of The Color Purple, Naropa University in 2007

This day is the final test of your college years. What you do is what you WILL do. I ask you to approach this day with grace, grit and gratitude. This is not preparation for life, THIS IS LIFE.”– Wynton Marsalis/University of Vermont 2013

Graduates Steve Sack The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Used by Permission:  Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune


Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Uncategorized


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