Dear Class of 2013,
I know what you’re thinking. ‘Why didn’t I just drop out of high school, create a simple blog service, then sell the darn thing to a company down on its luck for a you-know-what’s-cool one billion dollars?’
No, seriously. College is much more than a path to gainful unemployment. It’s about connecting with your peers. It’s about sitting in your dorm room, alone, eating Doritos, Facebooking, tweeting Kierkegaard and Louis CK quotes, choosing between the Early Bird and Nashville filters when posting the latest Instagram shot of your unruly toenail hair.
College is also about friendship. It’s about friends, friends for life, friends you can call on no matter how bad things may get.
For example, say in fifteen years you need a couple extra hundred thousand dollars. You’ll be glad that you’re able to text your lab partner, the girl who set the curve on the Organic Chemistry final and who’s now a biomedical engineer working on a cure for cancer. Who else will be able to fill you in on the leading cancer drug’s latest test results before the results go public?
Or say in twenty-five years, when your triplet daughters are all accepted to the same private college in New Hampshire. You’ll be super psyched you remember the guy’s name who sat next to you in Econ 319, the guy who went on to land a seat on the board of a major Wall Street bank, and who can provide you with some potentially valuable information about said bank’s latest earnings before said earnings are released.
If anything, I want you to walk away from this speech knowing that I didn’t jam any fortune cookie wisdom down your throats. I’m not going to stand up here and tell you to Be Bold or Lean In or Sit Down or Find something that you love and then do that thing even if it kills you, or your neighbors and their pets.
Nor am I going to dispense any advice from my so-called experience in the business world. I’m not here to tell you: Do things better than the next guy. Create lasting products. Improve workplace culture and conditions. No, what I’d tell you, if I were to offer you any advice, is: Do things the same but undercut on price. Manufacture products that need to be replaced with the “next generation” every six months. And when all else fails, outsource to the Indian Subcontinent.
The point I’m making is you don’t have to improve efficiency, you just have to shelter taxes in offshore accounts. And I’m not talking about illegal shelters but legal shelters. I’d never dream of encouraging you to break any laws. I believe deeply that laws are in place not be broken, but to be bent and dodged and found loopholes in.
Which brings me to this. If, or should I say when, you find yourself at the tippy top of a multibillion-dollar global financial services behemoth, and some of your detractors are thirsty for your blood, not to mention your stock options, I urge you to do three things: 1) Smirk while standing your ground. 2) Fight for your right to oversee white-collar crimes that go unpunished from both the CEO as well as chairman positions. And 3) Never, no matter how bad things get and how many jobs are lost or people’s pensions are decimated, allow something as ridiculous as government regulation or an oversight board to get in the way of earning a dishonest living.
I hope you don’t think I’ve been preaching. I really do feel honored to be here to speak with all of you fine, intelligent, young, hopeful, inebriated, bored, restless, debt-ridden, unemployed young people.
I’m also quite envious. You all look to be in fabulous shape. I don’t see a single one of you who look like they’ve experienced lower back pain. But I assure, my friends, it’s coming. They say there are only two things in life for certain but let me tell you, they’re lying—there's three. It’s actually a fact that sixty-five percent of you will at some point, in the not-so-distant future, drop to the ground while drinking an iced venti latte and experience a pain only more excruciating than giving birth, epidural-free, to a twelve-pound human being.
Which, incidentally, is why I wholeheartedly endorse careers than can be pursued in standing or lying positions.
Finally, since I see that the chancellor is getting antsy—she’s checked her email four times and updated her LinkedIn profile picture twice since I took my place behind the podium, not that I’m counting, or going to accept her invitation to connect—let me leave you with this:
Wherever the trailer hitch of life might drag you, never forget that this great country of ours is nothing if not the land of the free, home of the brave, and womb of the Prodigal Son.
And so, if you’ve been caught sending unfiltered photographs of your sculpted torso to constituents two decades your junior in hopes of “connecting” with them, remember that we, the good American people, on either side of the aisle, will one-hundred percent forgive you.
However, you have to be out of your mind if you think we’d vote for you.
In any case, Godspeed, good luck, and safe tweeting.
Speaking of which, if you're into that sort of thing, you can follow me @vaultfinance.
Five of the best 2013 commencement speeches (so far) (WashPost)
The Best Commencement Speeches of 2013 (The Atlantic)
Before Tumblr, Founder Made Mom Proud. He Quit School. (NYT)
The Return of Anthony Weiner (NYT)