As long as I’ve lived in this area, I’ve been offering to give a speech to the graduating seniors at Chanute High School about how they should properly live their lives after receiving diplomas.The local school district has yet to send me an invitation to deliver this sure-to-be-stirring speech.  

My desire to speak at the graduation is especially strong this year because members of this year’s class were freshmen when I started working for the Tribune covering sports. There are several tremendously talented teenagers in this class who I watched participate in both their first and their last official athletic event as a Blue Comet. I’ve gotten to know and like several members of the Class of 2015 and it would be an honor to give them a proper send-off. 

The cold and cruel yearly rejection of my graduation speaking skills is why I end up publishing the speech that I want to deliver to this year’s high school graduates in this Tribune column. Even in years like this one, when I recognize that there are plenty of graduates in this class who are far brighter than I am, I would hate to see my words of wisdom go to waste. If this community is not going to vote to give these graduates something like a workable Fiber plan that might help ensure that they stay around this area and have a chance at a decent job, it at least owes them an entertaining graduation speech. 

It seems like most graduation speakers just quote boring Robert Frost poems or much-read Dr. Seuss books, but I would rather endear myself to the students by dispensing valuable pieces of life advice like “Never pay 100 bucks to order a pay-per-view boxing fight when you can just go to the State Capitol and watch people needlessly fight for free.”  

It seems like the best possible use for valuable podium time would be to offer some reassurance to any graduate who feels a little bit lost and doesn’t know what they want to do with their lives.  

My educated guess is that most of the adults who are sitting in the gym and observing graduation probably felt this exact same way when they were graduating high school. I certainly did. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got out of high school. I knew what my academic strengths werebecause that was such a short list at the time. However, I had no idea how I could use any of my skills, knowledge, and gifts that I had to make a living and to pursue happiness. There are still times where I question whether or not I have made the right decisions in these areas, like when I’m sitting through Neosho County Commission meetings.  

Even for those wise enough to avoid regular attendance at government meetings, it takes a long time to actually figure out how being an adult works. This makes us prone to mistakes, pitfalls, and terrible decisions. Of course mistakes, pitfalls, and terrible decisions sometimes lead to a really great time. The ability to quickly recover from errors in judgment are part of what being young is about, so I would advise all of the graduates to take advantage of that every once in a while. A small series of youthful screw-ups will teach you a lot about yourselves and will help give you the intestinal fortitude that it will eventually take to properly deal with professors, bosses, spouses, kids, politicians, and nosy local newspaper reporters. So one thing I would advise graduates to do is expect to make mistakes and to embrace the learning opportunities that those can provide. 

The other thing I would like to tell everyone in the Class of 2015 is that none of your lives will turn out the way you might expect. That is universally true for all of us who have ever donned a cap and a gown; we didn’t really know where we’d end up, and that is the element of life that has kept it most interesting. I prefer to watch movies, TV shows, and sporting events where I can’t accurately guess or predict the ending, and I enjoy living life the same way. The surprise curve balls that life throws at us are what ultimately keep us on our toes. Learning to take a swing at those tricky pitches and connect every once in a while is ultimately what helps us win.  

I’ve seen plenty of you do something similar in your chosen sports over the last four years. Now, I look forward to seeing you do that in your lives.  


Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, or last-minute graduation speech invitations to 


Recommended for you

Load comments