Alas, another year has passed, and the lamentation grows. The weeping. The wailing. The rolling of the eyes. The airhorns.
Our high school graduates have once more taken the long march into adulthood, crossing the Civic Center stage and collecting their diplomas -- but only after collectively listening to several thousand hours of graduation speeches.
And with the instant wisdom granted with the departure from childhood comes, too late, the shocking realization that none of those speeches came from me.
I know; you're stunned. "Not from you?" You're asking incredulously. "But Barry, weren't you recently given awards from Columbia County Clean and Beautiful and 4H? And from Martinez-Evans Rotary? All three of those awards practically add up to the Nobel Prize, or at least are roughly similar in shape, aren't they?"
Yes, I know. Tragic.
Dear friends and graduates, this time of year I remember my friend Aubrey Shaw, the late News-Times columnist who annually lamented being omitted from the invitation lists of commencement speakers.
And like Aubrey, I make sure to offer this eulogy only when it's too late to influence anyone to actually request my oratorical services. No offense to all the other speech-givers, but I wouldn't want to make them look bad.
So it's perhaps best that my invitation -- which, the more I think about it, probably went by accident to my old address -- never arrived.
What's that? You want to know what I would have said if I had been invited to speak? Shucks, I didn't really prepare anything -- no, really, thanks, you're too kind; I appreciate the compliment, but no, I didn't already have a potentially Pulitzer Prize-winning commencement speech prepared. Just a rough draft, that's all.
Well, if you insist, I'll share some of the sentiments. Perhaps it's best that I not hide my light under a bushel basket, so to speak. Even if the invitation to address the Leaders of Tomorrow, the generous workers who one day will fund my Social Security retirement, was somehow misplaced and those terribly boring cardboard cutout speaker stunt-doubles had to be imported from Snoozistan to fill the gap resulting from my unfortunate absence, there's no reason I shouldn't now humbly offer my words of wisdom -- borrowed from God, who ordinarily loans out such pearls only to talk show hosts and the chairman of the County Commission -- to those young, eager graduates who even now are wondering how anyone could graduate from college, let alone high school, yet write such a ponderously long and convoluted sentence. And get paid lavishly for it.
It's a gift. See God if you've got questions.
What? Oh, sorry, I did get a bit off track. What were we talking about, again? All this discussion about graduates gave me a senior moment. (That was a play on words, one of those lighthearted comments required in the "witty" phase of a good commencement speech -- the part that comes just before the serious message, which itself precedes the most important section: The Conclusion.)
Ah, yes. We were getting ready to peek at the rough draft of that commencement speech, the one that will have to wait another long year for its potential delivery, the one that will sit, as lonely as a vegan at an Atkins Diet convention, awaiting its presentation with all the anticipation of an American Idol contestant.
Tragically, the disappointment must continue; just as the trip through school seems to come to an abrupt, too-soon end, so must the space allotted to this installment of my twice-weekly discussion come to an untimely halt.
I know, you're disappointed. But think of the children; remember, they are our future. And if they know what's good for them, they'll hide the invitation next year, too.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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