Lies and Untruths

Peter Gillette

The end is like the beginning, and my Lawrence career began inauspiciously, ominously even.
I didn’t want to be late, because to be late moving into 712 Kohler Hall spells disaster. There’s always some overbearing soccer mom holding the elevator on the second floor while two prissy girls order around two well-meaning but, at least on this day, foul-mouthed fathers (each of whom wears a sweat-stained Izod polo shirt and listlessly carries a box of wrong-sized wrenches) while people like me are third in line for the coffin-smelling contraption that would take me upstairs when my box of books that breaks on the floor and reveals my odd combination of pretension and bad taste to the judgmental snickers of my then-future neighbors.
Pretty scary, huh?
I got all moved in by 10 a.m., though, but I forgot to go to Downer to get my ID. So, sweaty and nervous, around 5 p.m. I sauntered into the lobby thinking that all hope was lost, but a nice lady said that I could still have my picture taken.
And now, as I pay my final library fines and thankfully had my last-second petitions approved by the Subcommittee on Administration, I say proudly now as I did then the words of the only song that can make Richard Warch openly weep: Lawrence is my dear old home.”Thus began my aborted attempt at a commencement address. I was nominated to give one last year, but I wasn’t graduating, so – ever the classy guy – I nominated myself this year. And then I wrote. I wrote. I wrote!
I wrote about how, as a graduation band member and as the brother of an LU ’01 graduate, I’ve been to four commencement ceremonies in five years. Then there would be a little joke in there about how that’s “three more Lawrence graduations than President Beck,” hardy har har.
And then, in spite of myself, I’d begin to lampoon all of the other graduation speeches I’ve been forced to endure over the last few years on Main Hall Green. With each draft, my speech became more and more bitter.
I bear very little hostility towards Lawrence University, mind you: I’m hostile towards the institution of the commencement address itself. You need to identify a common, unifying experience that makes our class utterly unique! One abandoned draft of mine began with a massive, all-class “poke.” Ouch.
In the end, though, I decided that the best commencement speech is the one that remains undelivered. Now, don’t get me wrong: Jeni Houser is great, and if anyone can introduce some sass into this staid genre, she can.
But in case Jeni doesn’t remind you, just remember, my dear readers, the best learning took place from our friends (not in the classroom), and it’s scary to go into the Real World, especially when we have that $120,000 debt to pay off now! Har, har, har, and thanks for reading.

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