June 2, 2011

Graduation Speech 2011 for 1966

Carolyn’s Compositions


     I didn’t attend my 1966 State University of New York at Buffalo graduation. I was tired from completing the course work, and didn’t want to hear another lecture. Instead, my husband Monte and I drove to the home of his (near the St. Lawrence river), and later celebrated my graduation at a small dinner party at my older sister Nancy’s home.

     Students, take note: I ignored being told I would regret missing the ceremony in the future. Whenever I’ve attended college education observances for others, I realize what I missed, and the regret does surface.

     Meanwhile, economist Donald J. Boudreaux has never been invited to present a graduating class speech. During the 2011 graduation season, he daydreamed what he would say if he were asked to do so.

     Having missed my graduation, I‘m adopting his daydream speech. With a special twist. Since I am no longer a young adult starting life, and am instead nearing my ninth life, I will examine his points to see how they worked in my lifetime.


The one thing that I can promise you is that your life outside these ivied walls will be an adventure filled with unanticipated twists and turns and ups and downs. How true! Unanticipated events:

  • My childhood dream of having twelve children was modified down through the years, but at least I wanted children. Life slapped me with infertility issues!
  • I married a university physics professor who followed a mid-life path of attending seminary to become a United Methodist Church pastor.
  • My husband, Monte, and I designed and built a beautiful home in Slippery Rock (PA) township. We were supposed to live there for life. I discovered life meant five years.

If you think you know today, at the age of 22, what you’ll be working on, building on and passionate about 25 (or more) years from now, think again.

  • My high school/college studies were science oriented—medical laboratory technology and occupational therapy. My B. A. degree says sociology. Twenty-five years later I was involved in child abuse and domestic violence issues.
  • For three years I did the arts and crafts route, doing shows all over Atlanta, Georgia.
  • In 1990 I had became a town’s journalist for a local paper. Thus, photo/journalism started me on the path to professional writing.
  • I began genealogy research—never suspecting earlier in life that my family history would be so intriguing, and would yield so many interesting stories.
  • NEVER would I have predicted I’d receive the title Independent Historian. However, the genealogy research led to writing a historic romance story and several short stories—all requiring intense historical research.

     That things will be different 25 years into your future is a good thing. How dreary would your life be if its full course were already set and you knew your future with as much clarity as you know your past? No surprises. No ‘Aha!’ moments. No discoveries. No creativity.

     I agree. My parents and the generations before them learned one thing in which they expected to spend their entire career. That included motherhood. Often these “careers” were footsteps on paths of the parents—miner’s children became miners, assembly line worker’s children worked the assembly line—day after day, year after year, until the job killed them or they grew old and used up. In my generation and the 2011 generation things changed: preparing for one lifetime job/career has become a thing of the past.

Of course, you’d also suffer no disappointments or failures. You can’t be disappointed when something disagreeable occurs if you’ve known for years that that disagreeable thing would happen. Nor can you fail if your future is predetermined. After all, you’d have no control over that future. So be happy that disappointments await you. Be pleased that you can fail…recognize that you would not truly be living if you could immunize yourself today from disappointment and failure.

The society that you’re about to enter as a working adult is dynamic, commercial and entrepreneurial. Sure, it’s polluted with plenty of misguided man-made imperfections. It could be better. But it’s still great — in large part because it is open-ended, unpredictable, a work in progress, able to turn this way or that depending upon what you and others like you choose to do.

     My disappointment caused by the infertility issues made me view choices. I’d always wanted to add adopted children into my life—and the opportunity came to bring my daughter Sandy into my life through adoption, and, concurrently, my B. A. in Sociology brought me a job doing adoption home-studies. Later, we fostered pregnant women planning on releasing their children for adoption. All these choices in the face of disappointment enriched my life.

Here’s a basic rule of that society: It owes you nothing, for it is nothing more (or less) than an astonishingly complicated web of interactions among billions of individuals. And only an individual can owe anything to anyone…Unless you identify a flesh-and-blood person who received something from you in return for that person’s promise to give you something in exchange, no one owes you anything…You, as an adult, are owed only what you earn from other individuals.

     My parents didn’t owe me a college education. In fact, because of their financial and family obligations, they couldn’t support my quest. Yet I was the first person in the family to earn a Bachelor’s degree that became possible only because of my interactions with numerous persons who came into my life, either intermittently or long-term. Through these relationships I found ways to earn life’s rewards.

  • My acceptance into the two-year college was largely based on my volunteer work at a cancer and a veteran’s hospital.
  • My application for a job in the college and hospital libraries was preceded by the volunteer work I did in the high school, cancer center, and other libraries.
  • My receipt of a Children’s Trust Fund grant for child abuse prevention was largely due to my volunteer work in child abuse prevention and domestic violence issues.

Just as the love and kindness that you give to family and friends returns to you as love and kindness that you receive, the more goods and services that you make available to strangers, the more goods and services that will return to you in the form of income that you earn…This earning, not only of the love you enjoy from people close to you, but of material stuff from the countless strangers that you’ll deal with in market exchanges throughout your life, is an achievement much larger than can ever be recorded in your financial portfolio…Mostly, you’ll earn self-respect and a sense of accomplishment.

     I’ve always tried to give family, friends—and acquaintances, people I meet briefly along the way—love and kindness, and to deal fairly with people with whom I do market exchanges. Not surprisingly, this approach has paid off with a feeling of self-respect and accomplishment.

Your life will be a creative endeavor — one that would yield exactly zero sense of accomplishment if you ‘got’ simply because some abstraction — ‘society’ — paid off to you some imaginary debt that it ‘owed’ to you…Your sense of accomplishment will be real only if you exercise your creative faculties and work to be worthy of the love and friendship you receive from those who are close to you — and only if you exercise your creative faculties and work to be worthy of whatever income you receive in exchange for whatever you produce.

     My life certainly has been a creative endeavor, but not because I simply got what society gave me. Looking back, I do feel that my sense of accomplishment is real because I exercised my creative faculties and worked hard to be worthy of the love and friendship of others and worked to be worthy of whatever income I received in exchange for what I produced.

     This may need some explanation for persons in today’s world—especially women—who might say that I lived off my husband because I didn’t have a “paying” job outside the home.

  • I chose this route for my life. However, by not being an employed mother (understood to be a paid worker for someone else) I was in a position to pay my way in society through volunteer work.
  • I operated a family child care home, enabling numerous students—single parents—to access safe child care while they attended classes and worked (this also provided socialization for my children).
  • I became a substitute mother for pregnant women (some as young as fourteen years old) planning on placing their children for adoption.
  • Next, I developed family support programs that reached out to adults abused as children. Currently, I facilitate a local writers group.
  • There were other ways I served the community, earning my “keep.”

     I never felt that not being employed for a paycheck diminished my self-worth, because I earned self-respect through my contributions to society. I agree that I cannot imagine a more nauseating feeling than the one I would suffer if I found myself lavished with a prince’s ransom of material goods and luxuries, yet knew that I did nothing to earn that bounty…I’d feel poor because the part of me that matters most, my soul, would in fact be poor.

     Forty-five years after my college graduation my soul is rich, and, as Boudreaux stated, my your soul is more important than (my) wallet.

     Daydream on, Boudreaux. You dream good ideas.





June Celebrations: Part 1

Take Me Out to the Ball Game…So Reluctantly I Go

Baseball, a strawberry festival, and a summer concert

Reflections on motherhood

SPORTS VS. SOAPS: Television Addiction


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