Edith’s Graduation Speech

Edith was hitting a wall. The local high school had come up with the idea of asking four senior citizens to speak at their graduation and she had been picked as the community representative. This was risky business since Edith was known as a loose cannon. The Sun Coast Retirement Center thought they could control her with some coaching because, when Edith hit the mark she could be witty and, yes, even brilliant.
So Edith had ideas cooking in her mind. The wall she had hit was to decide if it was worth the big risk of being revolutionary. She didn’t want to be that normal namby pamby speaker who droned on about integrity, truth, ambition, and creativity. No. She wanted to have GRIT, THE HARD KNOCKS, and HELPFUL ADVICE for the graduates of 2015.Was it worth the risk of cruel judgment, possible shunning, and even being expelled from her home? Yes! She decided.
She ran up against the typical supervision of the activity director at Sun Coast wanting to water down everything as usual. Well, Edith had that figured out ahead of time. She’d just make up two speeches.
The day arrived and Edith was dropped off at the High School Auditorium in plenty of time to visit the bathroom and fuss with her papers.
The class filed in and took their seats. The normal rituals of songs, class speeches, and other boring necessities were grinding away. Edith found herself getting eager to get on with it. She knew her speech would be talked about forever despite the 5 minute time limit. “No one ever remembers these things. I want mine to be different. I want mine to be important. I want mine to change lives,” she thought.
Finally, she was introduced and it was her turn to take the podium.
“Young people hear my words. I have lived eight decades. I have worked, raised children, kept a home, and seen changes. I’ve lived through the space age, the computer age and seen all these generations they call the X, and Me, and Millennial Age.
I have not been sheltered like you have been. I have dealt with snobs, and selfish and thoughtless bosses and co workers. I have had my butt pinched and been propositioned by neighbors and even relatives. I’ve had to listen to ignorant assess and corrupted officials and closed minded fools. I’ve had to work inside and outside the system to get things done. I’ve written letters, protested non violently and, yes, even participated in civil disobedience. I’ve chaired committees, written checks, and served on Boards. I’ve paid my dues. Now it is YOUR turn. Get out there. Stand on the picket line, protest in a rally, and work at making phone calls. “
Now a few administrators on the dais and in the back rows were beginning to wonder what Edith was up to. The seniors were eyeing each other and beginning to text their bewilderment. They thought they might like this old lady shaking up the ceremony.
Edith continued, “You are used to being protected and sheltered. But I know you better than your parents think they do. You know what is out there. You pay attention to the bad stuff around you. In fact, for some of you, that is all you pay attention to. You know that the world has nuclear weapons, the climate is warming up and the ice is melting. You know that life as you have known it will never be the same. There are drugs, poverty and racial tensions, inept lawmakers, corrupt and lying corporations, and bridges, trains, and airports falling apart. You know that, despite medical advances, exercise, and vegan diets, your lives will be shorter than your parents. So NOW is the time to move.”
A few parents were moving to the back of the room and calling in more help. This old gal was dangerous. She was preaching resistance, defying authority, and wrecking Graduation! Someone had to stop her.
“Take my lead. Leave here today with energy and purpose. Don’t put up with the same old nonsense. Leave your overprotective parents and teachers. Educate yourselves and make the world a better place.”
Some of the graduates were stirred to action. Whispers turned to talking. Students were leaning over each other and tapping their classmates on the back. No one was sure what to do, but they were ready to move. A few leaders near the front stood up, then more joined them.
Edith, seeing that she was encouraging them and that her words were being heard, continued even louder. “That’s right, get on your feet. Follow your class leaders. Head for the doors! Get a move on. Don’t be left behind!”
But on the edges, the administrators had finally decided to act. Two of them came on the stage in cap and gowns and started to move toward Edith. By now she had her hands around the microphone and had a sturdy grip on it and the podium. They came to her, one on each side, and unwrapped her fingers, held her by the elbows and armpits, and escorted her behind the curtain.
“What are you doing? Why are you doing this? Just what do you want to accomplish?” They asked.
But Edith was sitting on a folding chair with a blissful smile on her face.
“This is the finest day of my life,” she thought to herself, “I’ve inspired the youth of today to go out and be the workers of tomorrow.”
Little did she know the students were all out in the parking lot popping the corks out of the Champaign bottles. The “inspirational talk” and Edith’s call to action had only started an early celebration.Edith's Graduation Speech