Advice for the GRADUATING Class of 2015




Thank you for inviting me here today. I am honored.


Let me begin by saying that it is hotter then Hell. I am ‘swimming’ under this cap and gown. There is no amount of deodorant that will take care of what I believe is going on under there. Like life, sometimes things get uncomfortable and you need to cast off the gown that has been provided by others- and remember everyone smells sometimes, so give yourselves, and others, a break every now and again. Unless it’s chronic- then you’ll need to change things up. Maybe find a new deodorant- or situation.


When I was asked to impart my wisdom today, your University President, asked if I could come-up with a ten minute speech.


I think ten minutes is about ten minutes too short, but I’m receiving an ‘honorary’ degree in Letters, in exchange, so I showed-up. This proves two things: 1) people like to be honored for stuff they don’t deserve, and 2) most people don’t spend enough time on things that are worthwhile.


When I graduated many years ago, the only thing I was interested in was finding a job so that I could get an apartment, and a car, and a ‘life’ of my own. But, Carter was Prez and gasoline was being rationed, and the economy stunk, and people were going to be replaced by this new thing called ‘computers’, and we were all being tracked by aliens, and the USSR (look it up) was likely going to nuke us, and Cancer would be cured, and no one needed Viagra, and going braless seemed like a good idea.


Things change. Your ‘things’ will change too.


Today, you are all starting out of the ‘gate’ together. You all believe anything is possible- and it is, but it won’t stay that way forever. Every decision you make out of fear, every influence that isn’t motivated by love, every year you hesitate to begin your journey, is time that you will never get back. All of you will be occasionally disappointed but you’ll need to get back on the horse.


Disappointment is a gift. Use it to re-tool. Re-think. Reinvent- get a new saddle.


You have all worked hard to be here today. None of you have done it alone. No one does. That island we’ve all heard about- with that guy who’s on it all by himself and having the time of his life? That guy? He’s miserable. No cell service to that island, but he’s not on anyone’s Contact list anyways.


There’s really only a few suggestions I can give you with any kind of certainty:


  • Mind your own business. Life’s complicated enough so ease up on the finding someone/thing to bitch about so that you feel better about your own frustrations. It’s a slippery slope. You’ll be scaling mountains, without reaching your summit, forever.
  • You can’t ‘fix’ people. You can only ‘fix’ situations. Sometimes that means changing jobs. Sometimes that means acceptance.
  • Know the difference between ‘daring’ and ‘stupid’. One is calculated and the other is reckless. Sorta the difference between Atticus Finch and Johnny Knoxville.
  • Be good to yourself, even love yourself, but not so much that you think you are the Center Of The Universe. We are all but passing through and someone’s got to know how to fix a toilet.
  • Don’t just take up space and suck air. Even if you don’t change the world, don’t leave it a worse place.
  • Do fall in love, but not without first being friends, however, don’t be your child’s friend without being a parent first. There are appropriate steps to meaningful relationships. Not everyone is as blessed as the Kardashians, whom appear to be able to do so much in reverse.
  • Don’t assume you ‘deserve’ anything. Life’s not fair. There will always be an asshole driving the car of your dreams and a Veteran trying to find a meal. Enjoy what you do have. Be grateful for all the small reasons.
  • Tip well. The difference between being gracious and being a jerk is so often a percentage– and I’m not just talking money.


And finally, always, have an emergency contact, a few bucks in your pocket, a phone charger available, drink champagne from a tall flute, and have a personal fan up your pants…


God, it’s hot out here.


  • Linda Roy (elleroy was here) - This is just so excellent Cheryl. Wonderful advice. I wish you’d spoken to my graduating class. Can I book you to speak at Max’s in 3 years? 😉ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Ha! Yes- I can be bought with wine.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa Froman - Ha great minds think alike. Lol. I wrote a commencement speech blog too.. I like your advice too—lots of good life lessons!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Actually…. I saw yours and thought ‘Why Not?” Thanks for the inspiration Lisa! ps: yours is better written….ReplyCancel

  • Carol Cassara - I love what you advise about handling disappointment. What wisdom that one line is! Among your other gems, of course.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - At our age I think we know a thing or two about reinventing- am I right Carol? HA!ReplyCancel

  • Doreen McGettigan - This is a fabulous commencement speech, perfect. I am going to share it with a few college students.

    • Cheryl - That would be amazing (and a little embarrassing) but please do! Another life lesson- don’t be embarrassed. I should read myself.ReplyCancel

  • Gary Sidley - Cheryl, you’ve excelled here, even by your own supreme standards. Such wisdom, I’ve today re-christened you as ‘The Sassy Sage of New Orleans’! I believe your recommendation to be friends before lovers, and a parent to a child before a friend, constitutes human knowledge of a (honorary)degree most people can only aspire to.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I’ve seen the reverse screw things up soooo many times. One time my son said, “We’ll never be friends!”. I said, “Good. I’ll take being your mother over any other relationship with you.” Never heard it out of his mouth again. Thanks Gary. For the SHARE and the ‘Title’. I’ll TAKE IT!ReplyCancel

  • Diane Tolley - This is the best graduation speech ever! Sharing . . .ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - And I THANK YOU. You may graduate with Honors.ReplyCancel

  • Carolann - Brilliant! I love the point that you can’t fix people. Love this! Sharing!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - How many people do we both know that think they can? Many! It’s so arrogant. Fix yourself first! HA!ReplyCancel

  • Mari Collier - Oh, yes, I want to hear that speech when you give it. Not bad though, particularly the don’t leave the world in a worse place.ReplyCancel

  • Roshni - Wish someone had given me this advice! !ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I wish it had been given to me too. Maybe in my next life I’ll come back as a wiser me? Or at least speak at my own graduation? One can only hope!ReplyCancel

  • Courtney Conover - The Brown Girl With Long Hair - Cheryl, there aren’t enough words in the English language to describe how utterly perfect your bullet points are. I loved this!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Well…. may be SOME of them. Hahahaha. Thanks for stopping by Court. Love your new shoes! Have a great time!!ReplyCancel

  • Sue - You can’t fix people, only situations is my favorite. This is a go-to words of wisdom for me now.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - And decorating mistakes– those you can fix. HahahahaaReplyCancel

  • Abby - Dear Cheryl,
    Loved all of them, but especially the one about loving ourselves. As it turned out my husband was loving me first before I was loving my-self. It actually took me a whole 40 years to start accepting and getting to know myself. I think when we do that it fixes many things. And then the world becomes a better place. Amazing post:)

    • Cheryl - Dear Abby, You are so right. One must feel comfortable in their own skin and confident about their choices to be able to stop and smell the roses- or move to France. I think you’ve got it ‘down’. Ha!ReplyCancel

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