Senator John Kerry, was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree today at Emerson College in Massachusetts where he delivered the commencement address.
Today Senator John Kerry spoke at the 126th annual Commencement exercises at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. Below is a copy of his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Emerson College Commencement Address, Emerson College
Senator John Kerry, May 15, 2006
President Liebergott, Members of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Overseers, Robert Steele, faculty and staff, parents, and of course the great graduating Class of 2006, thank you.
Before I begin I have an announcement-will the student who owns the brand new cherry red Corvette in the parking lot, with the big ribbon on it, the one with the license plate that reads “Emerson 2006″…your lights aren’t on. I just want to tell your parents to send me a campaign check, they can afford it.
President Liebergott asked me if I wanted some music played as I was introduced. I said no. Although 2 years ago I did spend $200 million hoping just once to hear hail to the chief.
It really is an honor for me to be here. I heard you had a great choice of commencement speakers. I was told you wanted a wealthy guy with a full head of hair who is all over T.V. and who desperately wants to be president. But Donald Trump wasn’t available.
So instead you got me. I want you to know, running for president wasn’t pressure-trying to decide on the theme of this commencement address was pressure. On one hand I thought about giving an hour 20 minute speech on foreign policy, global warming, third world debt and the importance of public service. Then on the other hand, I thought if I keep this to 10 minutes we’d all have a lot more time to have a beer together.
Hour 20 versus 10 minutes. Hour 20…10 minutes and a beer. I’ll tell you what, let’s go with the short one. And if I see any of you opening up a red bull midway through, I’ll finish even sooner.
To start off, let’s take a moment right now and give a big hand to your parents.
You know, your parents remember that times were different when we graduated. The good news — we had a guaranteed job plan for immediate full time work after college. The bad news–it was called the draft.
But that was then and this is now and today we celebrate the fact you just finished 4 years at a great school. Each of you grew a lot-and I don’t mean the freshman 15. You grew as you learned about yourselves, and about life. You no doubt enjoyed the fact that college is a time to ponder the great questions of the universe, questions that there are no answers to-why are we here? What will the future be like? And why in the world does Heather Locklear date David Spade?
And I know your parents would be pleased to know you spend your time pondering the big questions. Like, is Tom Cruise’s career over? And why can a 10 year old little leaguer catch a fly ball but Manny Ramirez can’t?
What impresses me is that not only have you grown but the school is growing. Emerson is building a new gym to open up next fall. But then again, what else would you expect from a football factory?
Someone told me you take special pride in the fact you are the Emerson Lions. How many of you have stopped to think how the average lion spends its day? It spends 22 hours napping and the other 2 hours looking for food. Which pretty much sounds like the average frat brother at Alpha Pi Theta.
You know, it occurred to me that I have never had so much power as a Senator. I’m all that stands between you and your degree.
So here you are, just minutes away from that golden moment and I suppose it’s an appropriate time to ask yourselves, what has Emerson given you?
Well, in your four years here many of you have learned about honesty, loyalty, ethics and caring. You will become your parents pride and joy. A few have lost your bearings, become cynical and lost your moral compass. You will become political consultants
Which is a opportunity for me to bring you the latest update on what is going on in Washington DC…
–the front page is filled with allegations that CIA officials were partying at the Watergate with gambling, liquor and women. Just think, they could be charged with impersonating a Member of Congress.
–Finally, the Bush Administration has an exit strategy. 50 more members of the White House staff have exited their jobs
–I know you’ll be pleased we are continuing the much needed investigation into the election fraud and illegal voting. Hopefully, never again will we see what happened to Chris on American Idol
Tonight the president gives a major speech on immigration. That’s what I love about Washington-a president who has difficulty speaking English complaining about people who have difficulty speaking English.
So, now that you’re graduating, what’s next?
Well, some of you will leave here and become successful writers. Especially if you learn to copy, paste and plagiarize like Harvard sophomores.
Some of you will become teachers. Some soldiers. Some lawyers or doctors. And one of you could end up working for the most powerful person in the free world. Oprah.
Everyone knows Emerson’s great reputation in communications, and there are so many fields communication majors can go into-theater, TV, film…or you can just find fulltime work at the NSA tapping phones.
And for those of you who want to be journalists, you really do have a choice. The very top, the very brightest, the A students will go to the New York Times and the Washington Post. The B and C students, will start on smaller papers and work their way up. But the D and F students who are really attractive, you’re gonna make millions in TV news.
As every cliché in the world reminds you, today is a commencement, a time you leave here and take a step toward your future. What will tomorrow bring, what will life be like 10 years from now?
Just think, the world has changed so much in your 4 years here. Four years ago the longest jinx in Boston was the Red Sox, now it’s Democratic presidential candidates.
But even without a crystal ball, there are certain things I am absolutely sure of.
First, in the year 2016, the average member of Congress will serve 12 years. Actually 10-15 depending on the sentencing judge.
In 2016 we will still face the same tirades from the world’s longest reigning dictator as he presides over the collapse of a failed empire. But this is neither the time nor place to talk about George Steinbrenner.
Gold will cost $725 an ounce. So will oil. And both will still be cheaper than Starbucks coffee.
Sadly in 2016 the price of gas will continue to skyrocket. And that means Anna Nicole Smith will be trying to marry Texaco dealers.
In 2016 there were still be too many guns on the street. In fact there will still be too many guns in the hands of Dick Cheney. Actually, that’s the only good news to come out of Washington, DC — it’s been two months now and the vice president hasn’t shot anyone.
But I digress. In ten years, young people will be electing their own candidates. I have 3 words for people who think this is a good idea-President Jessica Simpson.
In 2016 I will be retired from the Senate. Ted Kennedy will be promising just 3 more terms.
And finally, one thing for sure, in 2016, you will all still be paying off student loans.
So we’ve touched on your career options, and we’ve looked into the future which means there is only one thing left for me to do. It is to carry out the most important duty of a commencement speaker. It’s to give you a little practical advice for the life you’re about to begin. Because to be honest, college is good for a lot of things but in the end you don’t get the real advice you need to prosper. So here they are-a few rules for succeeding in life.
Rule #1…anyone can grow up and be president. That’s what I keep telling myself every night.
Remember always, peace is better than war, try to avoid fighting and never ever ever get into an argument with a guy nicknamed Killer, Lefty or Paulie Walnuts.
Here’s the key to making real money. Hold on 17, hit on 16 and split aces eights and nines. Or, if that fails, take my advice — marry up.
Stop talking when the audience is snoring. If only I had remembered this in 2004
Remember the 12 3 rule: never propose marriage after 12 beers or after 3 a.m. Look what happened to Brittney Spears.
—and never believe the evidence from the CIA.
That’s it, that’s all you need to succeed in life.
OK, we’ve had some fun — or at least I have.
You’re about to become Emerson graduates, you don’t need someone to tell you how to be successful. But the truth is, there is something else you need to do to make our democracy successful, to renew the best our system of self governing has to offer.
We need a whole lot more good citizens.
There’s a lot that’s broken in Washington today. And it’s good that we can laugh about it. But it’s much more important that we fix it. That’s where plain and simple, tried and true citizenship comes in.
You want to fix Washington? Speak out.
It sounds old fashioned, but it’s true. The bedrock of America’s greatest advances-the foundation of all we take for granted today — was formed not by cheering on things as they were, but by taking them on and demanding change. No wonder Thomas Jefferson himself said that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”
I know that the reason many people aren’t interested in politics today is because politicians aren’t saying anything very interesting.
But if you want to change that, speak out — speak out and make your issues the voting issues of this nation.
You might say, “who’s he kidding? We can’t do that.” But I remember when you couldn’t even mention environmental issues without a snicker. But then in the 70’s people got tired of seeing the Cuyahoga River catch on fire from all the chemicals. So one day millions of Americans marched. Politicians had no choice but to take notice. Twelve Congressmen were dubbed the Dirty Dozen, and soon after seven were kicked out of office. The floodgates were opened. We got the Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water. We created the EPA. The quality of life improved because concerned citizens made their issues matter in elections.
So it’s up to you now to speak out if you want to restore a politics of big ideas, not small-minded attacks.
Speak out if you’re tired of seeing America divided into red states and blue states, because you know we can be one America — red, white, and blue.
The job of citizens is to speak out so loudly that Washington has no choice but to start responding to the real needs and the real issues of each and every one of you.
I know in the age we live in this isn’t easy. You’ll meet resistance. You’ll find plenty of people who think you should just keep your mouths shut or that by speaking out you’re somehow less than patriotic. But that’s not really new either. When we protested the war in Vietnam some would weigh in against us saying: “My country right or wrong.” Our response was simple: “Yes, my country right or wrong. When right, keep it right and when wrong, make it right.”
Graduates of the Class of 2006, that’s the mission of citzens again today – to get off our rear ends – go out – and make it right today. And I know that’s exactly what you can and will do.
Congratulations — and God Bless.
(AP Photos/Bizuayehu Tesfaye)