Saturday, May 10, 2008
Here was the speech I gave at my grad convocation! I hope it's readable, and I'm working on getting the video up and running.
An older friend of mine, Dan Mordridge, once told me, “Go ahead, Andy: eat and sleep on your parents’ money right now [in college]. My dad always said, it's the best free country club you'll ever be a part of!”
I took this to heart, and wherever my parents are in the audience—well, can someone check up on my dad?
Charity: there’s a good starting point. We lived on our parents’ charity for these years. And our friends’. And our landlords’—well, maybe not charity from them. And of course our teachers’.
Charity from teachers? That sounds odd, especially since I already went through Jesuit high school. Didn’t I know what was coming? Didn’t I expect the loads of homework? The sleepless nights? The 567th trip to the Bursar’s to straighten tuition out? They should’ve given me one of those notary stamps gold-plated.
We all know why we picked it though: we endured the school for the education. Education is charity, at least in some icy corner of the globe. Tough love, tough charity; the work of the Honors seminar me and a few brave souls took was brutal: the first semester, we read thirteen books, with a fourteenth listed as “recommended,” maybe as a joke.
There was charity from my friends, the other inmates of the Honors program, cloistered into Tweast and Twest of Simpson Hall freshman year. We spent our time doing massive piles of reading, watching TV, hanging out and building forts in our lounge—that was the boys’ side.
Floor breakfasts were the best part. All the sharing, story-telling, the Thanksgiving of it. Understandably, the Simpson Dining workers’ charity was put to the test when we all went at once, rearranging tables and chairs in a cruel game of Tetris.
By junior year, I was out of the dorms and in an apartment over on Wayne. A friend’s dad, Mr. Z, told me that every true upperclassman apartment must have a name, so after a short debate, we christened ours “The Duchy.” Mr. Z’s place was called “El Rancho de Malaria,” though I’m not sure what that means: I tested out of Spanish years ago. I’m sure it’s funny.
Trying our neighbors’ charity, we threw birthday parties, Mardi Gras parties, Passover parties. We have a wall of Polaroids as proof. Somehow, we managed to impress our landlord and stay out of prison. That’s the very definition of charity, so I take back the bad things about landlords I said before.
The charity of the bookstores was apparent at that fine time of year, textbook buybacks. This is when you place bets with friends on exactly how much you’re going to get back. I always stayed conservative, usually around $5 for every 30 I spent originally. This year, I bet I’d get 15 for three books. Went into Beck’s, and when the cash register chimed, it read… 24.50?! I’m rich! Oh wait, I just bet away that extra 9.50.
Here we are at the end of the line. After tomorrow, I am doing what every college student should do: taking a year off. I need second choices behind famous comedian, and so I need to figure out what to do with my life. My few ideas so far are going to southern California or Florida to study writing.
How you holding up, Dad? How’s Mom?
It won’t end tomorrow. Some of us are going on to grad school, and some of us are like me... hoping for the charity of a corporation to hire me. But that’s not the end of everything here. My bookshelves are still full of classics I wouldn’t have had without all those great recommendations. And the friendships continue today as we play basketball together, see each others’ concerts, and wave at each other across Sheridan. Some of us even go back to Simpson Dining once in a while, just to rearrange the tables.
We’ve survived tragedies. We’ve endured comedies. We’ve weathered the storms with the help of everyone around us and managed to reach this point. It was fun, a joy, and it was not just for sadists. So here’s to all of our, your charity. It kept us out of prison. Thank you.