- Ada, Oklahoma

May 22, 2013

Imagine a more truthful commencement address

Bobby Winters Guest Columnist

Ada —

We are in the time of year for commencements, and every commencement has a commencement address. 

There is a certain formula that these follow, and so most sound the same. This is safe, and it’s not likely to change.       There are times, however, when I fantasize about hearing another sort of address. One that lays out the truth the way it is. In my opinion, it would go somewhat like the following:

You are never going to be president of the United States. There are 300 million of you and one of him. While what we’ve seen on the last few decades doesn’t seem to make talent for the office much of a barrier, you are going to be shouldered out of the way by statistics alone.

Don’t cry about that; it leaves you free for more important things, like raising a family. Yes, you are probably going to raise a family. Not everybody does it. Most do. For the overwhelming bulk of us, it’s the most important thing we will ever do. The key to doing it well is to choose a good person as your spouse and to be good to them. If you get that down, the rest just sort of follows. Raising a family is a natural thing, after all.

Don’t believe what you see on TV or hear on the radio or read in the newspapers. Consider the weatherman. He’s an honest sort of guy without a political ax to grind and even he gets it wrong. How much more so with the rest? Fox, CNN, NPR, MSNBC it doesn’t matter; they’ve all got an agenda; they’ve all got an ax to grind. If you can’t help but watch it —and I have to confess that I do —at least remember what I said about the weatherman.

Save your pocket change. I wanted to say create a home budget which includes a regular system of saving, but I know that I’d just be talking to myself. If your parents haven’t already brought you there by now, what I say in a few seconds isn’t going to stick. But you can save your pocket change in a flowerpot or a Pepsi bottle or, heck, a piggy bank. It’s better if you can see it, though. The effect of doing this is miraculous. Over time — even if your parents didn’t teach you this — you will see a little savings over time adds up.

Love God with all your heart and mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. Okay, I’ve crossed a line. A university official just started writing a press release to put distance between the university and me. (I suspect they have one on file already.) Church, state, wall of separation; I get that. There are people who don’t believe in God. If you don’t, love your neighbor anyway. Regardless, do something to get out of the center of your own little, self-made universe. We all have one. The name for it is Hell.

Do not worry about what others are thinking of you. It’s not that image isn’t important; it is. Don’t worry about what people think about you because they are probably not thinking about you. People have their own lives, their own problems. They really don’t have that much time to think about whatever you’ve done lately.

But, in the bigger picture, don’t worry. Worry is an unprofitable activity. Instead of worrying, plan and do it carefully and systematically. Talk to others and get their ideas. Do the best you can, pray, and live with what happens.

Dread is a cousin of worry. All it does is amplify the pain. Instead of dreading, try to cultivate endurance.

I’ve just mentioned endurance. This leads me to another useful bit of advice: plow around the stump. By this I mean, you are going to come to times when there are obstacles in your life that will be hard to move. Really hard, i.e. moving them would require a lot of time, effort and expense that you could use for other things. In cases such as these, accommodate yourself. If it comes to a point that you need to use dynamite to get it out, then be careful with the dynamite.

To close with the most important piece of advice, for the overwhelming bulk of you, choose a good spouse and be good to them. Everything else I’ve said pales in comparison.

Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, is assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of mathematics at Pittsburg State University. He blogs at and You may contact him at We invite you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.