Advice I’d give to graduates if I were asked

BY BOB WACHS, News + Record Staff
Posted 6/7/19

If it’s June, it must be time for baseball, weddings, graduation...and ceremonies.

Through the years, I’ve attended a number of such events — my own in high school and seminary, Shirley’s …

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Advice I’d give to graduates if I were asked

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If it’s June, it must be time for baseball, weddings, graduation...and ceremonies.

Through the years, I’ve attended a number of such events — my own in high school and seminary, Shirley’s college, the high school and college ones of the two 40-somethings who used to be teenagers who lived at my house and the occasional other as a newspaper reporter or as spouse of my better half when she had to be there as part of the faculty.

I didn’t get one of my own for college, mainly because it took seven years for me to do the do from the time I started until finally getting that piece of paper, although it wasn’t entirely unnoticed — the mailman shook my hand when he brought it to the mailbox.

And it also wasn’t seven straight years, either. Much of my college career was on the revolving door plan; specifically I’d drop in and then drop out, either on my own or being invited not to come back because of something about not-so-good grades. It took me awhile to come to learn it was probably a good idea to go to class and study.

I can’t remember anything special about any of those I did have, except hearing Mrs. Bell playing “Pomp and Circumstance” on the piano in the gym at old Pittsboro High School. And I certainly don’t remember what any of the speakers said, except that the one at my high school ceremony was incredibly boring. I remember that, even 50-plus years later.

It’s never been my lot to be the speaker at a graduation ceremony, although over the years I’ve had the opportunity to say a word or two to the graduates and their families at several baccalaureate services. However, remembering that I don’t remember what the speakers said at my ceremonies I don’t have any notions that the young folks held on to every word I said, either. That’s why I tried to keep those times short and sweet.

Typically, speeches, like sermons, I suppose, are better brief than not. If that’s so, then no doubt the most meaningful graduation address ever given was by Sir Winston Churchill at his old prep school in 1941. It contained something like 40 words, the most famous the 10 that said, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never . . . ”

Among the most famous is one allegedly given by Bill Gates, which really wasn’t despite an urban legend but which is still pretty good advice. Those “11 Rules of Life” include:

Rule 1 – Life isn’t fair; get used to it.

Rule 2 – The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3 – You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4 – If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.

Rule 5 – Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping — they called it opportunity.

Rule 6 – If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.

Rule 7 – Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8 – Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in life.

Rule 9 – Life isn’t divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10 – Television is NOT real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11 – Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll probably end up working for one.

Even though, Mr. Computer Genius didn’t, so the experts tell us, actually say those things anywhere, they are still pretty good ideas to take under advisement.

To those, I would add a couple — “Never pet a burning dog” and the more serious notion to “Enjoy what you do and learn to be good at it,” as long it doesn’t include robbing banks.

But the best advice of all, the one that could go far in easing the pains of this old world, is what folks call “The Golden Rule.” Some people think a new version — “He who has the gold makes the rules” — is the Golden Rule for today.

It’s not.

Try the old one: “Treat other folks like you’d like to be treated.”

Try that throughout your life, Class of 2019, and get back to me in 50 or 60 years and let’s see how it turned out.


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