Good evening, graduates and friends of Don Knotts Senior High, the home of the Fighting Cowards.
I understand that I was invited to speak because I am one of the few politicians remaining in West Virginia who has not been impeached or under federal indictment. I consider my status not only a badge of honor but a tribute to my lawyer.
Speaking as a lawyer myself, it had been my plan to charge your high school for my services by the hour in minimum increments of six minutes. Instead, I will charge by the pound. You will be getting a load of it this evening.
Tonight I am confident of three outcomes. You will have wanted to leave the auditorium about 15 minutes ago. You will not remember a word I will say.
Last, you will not hold it against me. Most of you will not bother to register to vote and much less vote. If you do vote, you will vote for me only because my name will be vaguely familiar.
Now, some do’s and don’ts. I have a few things to get off of my chest.
Your smartphone is making you dumb. Put it away.
You are not the center of the world. Don’t act as if you are.
There is no one uglier than a selfish person. Don’t be one.
Despite what you might be thinking right now, graduating from high school isn’t earth-shattering. For heaven’s sake, you are finishing in the bottom third of your class. Get over it already.
And, no, you do not deserve a candy-red, aero-venturing Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster with a naturally-aspirated V-12 engine with 770 CV displacement. No one does.
Don’t believe it when people tell you that you can be anything you want to be. That is false. You should settle.
A dried plum is still a prune. A pre-owned vehicle is still a used car. But eating prunes is good for you and buying a used car usually makes financial sense. Don’t let clever marketing fool you but also don’t overlook opportunity when it stares you in the face.
Men: Video games might be helping your eye-hand coordination but excessive engagement with them is delaying your maturation and affecting your marriageability. It is time to put childish things behind you.
Women: Having a boyfriend doesn’t define you. Don’t let one take advantage of you.
Let me tell you: Beto O’Rourke is not a serious presidential candidate. He is manufactured by a fawning national press. He is like your mother’s pampered younger brother who married well and probably still plays video games. Don’t waste your time on him.
Ada “Bricktop” Smith was born 125 years ago in Greenbrier County. She danced and sang her way around the globe and ran storied nightclubs in Paris, New York, Mexico City and Rome. Cole Porter wrote one of his most famous songs about her. Bricktop proudly announced her birthplace: “West By-God Virginia.” As you leave this state, and most of you will, remember Bricktop. Never be ashamed of where you came from.
Now for the do’s:
Doris Day died a few days ago. If you have never heard of her then a pox upon you and your parents. Learn more history.
Of all the virtues, patience is the most underrated. Be patient.
A maxim of Anglo-American law is that you cannot give what you do not have. This applies to other aspects of life. If you have no wisdom, you cannot give it. If you have no kindness, you cannot give it. Become wise. Become kind.
St. Theresa of Calcutta said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Do what she said.
Your generation is afflicted by apathy about too many things: civics, politics, faith, customer service and thank-you notes. Embrace these things and your apathy will vanish.
Much of your future success will depend on whether you smile most of the time. Smile.
Being creditworthy will help you throughout your life. Take this seriously.
Successes and failures, profits and losses, these are what make the world go around. Study them and understand them and you will go far.
Thank your parents regularly. They have been right in just about everything.
Seek out and shake the hands of the classmates you have been especially mean to. You know who they are. Look at them in the eyes and say: “I am sorry for how I have treated you. Congratulations. I wish you well.”
Always finish your presentations a few minutes early. Your audience will remember you for brevity, not profundity. By my watch, I have three minutes left. I cede the balance of my time to you so that you may quietly text among yourselves.
May you Cowards be happy and do well and good in this life.
Finally, I want you to know that I have had a perfectly lovely evening. But this wasn’t it.