The Gal From Queens’ Speech

Can’t blog. Must wait by my phone, because I’m getting a little nervous.  Graduation season is upon us, which means it’s time to line up commencement speakers. The Class of 2011 is about to bid adieu to the halls of ivy, and so far not a single school has called to invite me to address the graduates.

Frankly, I’m a bit puzzled.  Surely, I should have been contacted by now. Do you think Yale University phoned Tom Hanks a day before their graduation ceremony?  Did West Point ring up First Lady Michelle Obama the morning of graduation to ask if she’d be the commencement speaker?  I’m sure even Aron Ralston, whose harrowing experience and loss of arm were chronicled in the film, 127 hours, got at least 48 hours notice from Carnegie Mellon.

So why am I being dissed?  What am I, chopped liver?

If you ask me, it’s not right that only prominent people are asked to be commencement speakers. Sure, if you’re a student at Princeton University and you learn that Brooke Shields is speaking at your graduation, maybe you get a little punch drunk. Maybe your mom gets verklempt. It is Brooke’s alma mater, after all.  But having a famous person at your graduation doesn’t bring you a whole lot of cache. It’s not as if you’re going to be able to put it on your resume that Brooke Shields spoke at your graduation.  And even if you did, I absolutely cannot fathom any potential employer saying,

“Brooke Shields spoke at your graduation? Maybe you do deserve this job.”

Plus, a lot of these fancy schmancy speakers are paid buco bucks—about enough for a down payment on the mansion of your choice.  Me? I’d settle for the paltry sum of $10,000, plus green M&M’s in my dressing room (not that I’m particularly fond of green M&M’s but I always wanted to see what it felt like to be très demanding).

So enough with just asking the somebody’s of the world to address the graduating masses.   How about us nobody’s?  Sheesh! You’d think that only famous people have something important to say.  Well, I am here to say that any university should thank their lucky stars to get me. For not only am I available and ready to speak, I have valuable tips to convey to the multitude of poor souls about to leave the comforts of college existence and delve into the hard, cruel world that is life, economic downturn and all. Plus, I know my way around a good yarn or two.   If that’s not enough, know that I keep a portable podium handy, standing by for any occasion! And for another $5,000, I’d be happy to share some anecdotal stories of my own, slightly scandalous college years.

Sure, Apple's Steve Jobs was once asked by Stanford to speak, but me? Forget about it!

So what would I say to the Class of 2011?

Welcome to reality! You are not owed anything. There are no more entitlements, so snap out of it. Enough with the hard partying, the jello shots, drinking games and Halo mania. Time to sober up, pound the pavement and get with the program!

As my first boss, Jeff, used to say, “Monica, wake up and smell the coffee!” It didn’t make a difference that I didn’t drink the stuff. I knew what he meant.

You need to start earning your keep. Get a good job, one that offers health insurance coverage. Start putting some money away for retirement. At your age it doesn’t have to be much; any little bit helps. While you’re at it, take out a “whole” life insurance policy. One day you’re going to need one and the younger you are when you get it, the cheaper it’ll be.

No one leaves college landing a CEO job.  Unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg or Warren Buffet’s kid, there’s a good chance you’re not going to start at the top.  Be prepared to start a lot lower and then work your way up.

Don’t act like you’re above any part of your responsibilities.  What, you can’t make copies? You can’t file?  Well, how would you like to be in charge of the mimeograph machine?  What, you don’t know what that is? Well, that’s where I started!  Trust me, be grateful you don’t know—black ink on fingers can be nasty—so get thee to a copier now!

No matter what your job is, have high expectations of yourself. Your boss does, so don’t just get by. No slackin’ allowed. Strive to be your best and don’t always wait to be told what to do.  Identify and seize the opportunity!  Look for what needs to be done, then, do it.  You will impress your boss and all those around you.

Dress for success. Leave the flip-flops and cut-offs at home. You’re not a bum, so don’t come to work looking like one.

Don’t expect a barrage of compliments from the boss.  (No entitlements, remember?) Just do your job the best you can and the compliments will come, though maybe not as often as you’d like, but then your boss is not your parent.

Oh, and one last thing: if you think you’re never gonna get old, think again. It will happen to you. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but certainly before you know it. So think twice about getting that tattoo. Looks icky on wrinkly skin.

I’ll bet anything Brooke Shields’ class day speech won’t be as good as mine might have been. Princeton, it’s your loss. West Point, you too. And Yale? Call me, I’m available!

45 thoughts on “The Gal From Queens’ Speech

  1. Pingback: The Gal from Queens Speaks Again | Monica's Tangled Web

  2. I might not be graduating yet, but when I will, I’ll come back and read this post again! And I’d definitely say that your speech is better than any speech Brooke Shields will give in her life.
    Us, nobody’s, we’ve got a lot to say. We’re not famous, and as a direct result of that, we know what the real life’s like. We know how to get down and dirty and work hard. I’m a freelancer, and being one might give me the added advantage of being able to stay in my PJ’s all day, but heck, that doesn’t mean I get to be a lazy bum and just hang around. I have to work too, in fact, much harder than some other people. I don’t have a 9-5 job, I have clients to make happy.
    Monica, please come and speak at my graduation! =D

    • Yes, it’s about time commencement organizers know that us unknown’s can add just as much to a graduation ceremony, if not more, than some A or B-celebrity. I would love to speak at your graduation, even if it means I have to stand in the parking lot of your school in order to do so, because the principal won’t let me in to the ceremony, me being a nobody! Tee-hee!

  3. It sounds like your speech would far surpass any I’ve ever heard … and I’ve heard quite a few. None of them were memorable.

    I’m a substitute teacher and I do pass on the same advice about tattoos any time I have the opportunity. Everything goes south eventually. The tattoo you get at 18 will not look the same at 30, 40 or 50.

    Thanks for visiting on my SITS day. Come back any time. You are always welcome.

    • No kidding. I dislike tatoos, period. Especially dislike when they’re used to cover the entire body. At any age, their pointless. Oh, well, as long as there are needles around, there’ll always be people wanting to get tatoos. Thanks for stopping by! I love SITS and the feature on you was fabulous! 🙂

  4. Hi there! Love this, you should send it in to your local newspaper I am sure it would get published. xxx PS At my last graduation ceremony, there was a power outtage… no water, no A|C, and no lights obviously. Oh, and the head of the school had been fired and marched off the premises the day before… we would’ve happily given you all the green M&M’s in the world!!

    • You should blog about your graduation, especially this time of year. Sounds hilarious. Mine was uneventful. All I remember about it is the dress I was wearing underneath my gown. A red halter dress with white polka dots that my mother sewed for me. I loved that dress!

  5. Well Monica – if you are not too busy, can you be the speaker at Victoria University in Wellington tomorrow? No sorry, you have to foot the bill for the travel (at least $3,000 from the US in coach yet) and the accommodation ($250 a night in a third class hotel) and your food and other expenses. We may be able to fund the coffee and little cakes that we will have at the reception but if you want alcohol then that’s on your tab.

    • Wellington? I’m there! May not arrive on time. May be a week or two late, but am so excited to finally get an offer that I’ll see if the airplane pilot can step on it. Coffee and little cakes sounds splendid! Now, all I have to do is to start to raise the funds for the rest of the expenses! Toot suite! 🙂

  6. Great post. Very funny idea.
    When I interview people for jobs I’m going to start asking who spoke at their commencement. “I’m sorry, Snooki is impressive, but not Brooke Shields impressive.”

  7. This post made me laugh because I get the same way every time Fashion Week rolls around and I, too, wrote about it for my blog. Why doesn’t Carolina Herrera or Michael Kors call me? Obviously not as a model but as the type of woman they should want to dress- who will truly appreciate their clothes.

    Do we think we need publicists?

    • That’s a very good point. I love Michael Kors and though I’d make a terrible model, I wouldn’t mind trying on his latest stuff at a fashion show. So you go, girl. Make it happen. We seasoned vets deserve some attention. For Pete’s sake, we’re wise and savvy beyond our years, so it’s time we got our 15 minutes!

    • Maybe I need to do some exploratory research to test the waters. Who knows? Hillary didn’t become the first woman president; maybe because the world’s been waiting for me? Ha! Love it, thank you for the suggestion, Miss June!

  8. A podium! Drat! That’s why my phone’s not ringing! 🙂 One of my boyfriends told me to wake up and smell the coffee once. It didn’t exactly inspire me to do anything other than gesture. But, we each respond to different things. 😉 Fun post! I hope you inspire some grads!

    • It was my boss’ favorite line, wake up and smell the coffee. But he was a great boss with an amazing sense of humor, so I could never get annoyed by him or his dumb coffee saying. So far, I’ve gotten one offer to speak to a class of preschoolers (Thanks, Velma!), and since it’s never too early to give our youth a solid dose of reality, I may take her up on it. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by from She Writes!

  9. I know FAR too many college grads that need this speech.

    Maybe I should just start sending you addresses. You can give personal commencement speeches to those who obviously didn’t get the right one.

    • Thanks! I have plenty more where these came from, but I’m holding a few gems for when I get the call. I’m almost positive Columbia’s going to be calling me today! 😉

  10. Monica, Yale, Princeton, and Harvard would be lucky to have you! OMG, I loved this one! I was giggling with “Welcome to reality! You are not owed anything. There are no more entitlements, so snap out of it. Enough with the hard partying, the jello shots, drinking games and Halo mania.” I even read it to the Son, who’s in the process of finishing his sophmore year in college. I wholeheartedly agree with you. No more sense of entitlement! I can’t believe how easy these young adults have it! When I was in college, there was no Internet. It was books at the library, baby! And I’m thankful for it! Thanks for calling it like you see it. I’m with you all the way! 🙂

    • Please tell your son, You’re welcome. Glad I could give him some advice. Now he doesn’t have to sit through the commencement speech at his graduation. But seriously, honesty goes a long way, and if kids graduation today could hear it like it is, they’d be so much better off.

      Yep, no internet. We had the library. The Dewey Decimal system rocks! 😉

  11. Monica, as always I’ll heed your hilarious advice! Especiallyyyy the one about the tattoo– wrinkly skin + under the skin ink is a no-go, but green M&M’s might be in : ) haha

  12. Alas, both universities where I got degrees have already lined up speakers. I can’t imagine how they bypassed you. Would you consider a high school graduation…elementary school, maybe? The pre-K where I work is having graduation soon and I’m sure they don’t have a speaker. How about if I give them your URL?

  13. I had the drudgery of having to write Commencement speeches for my bosses to deliver for eight years—they were university presidents. It would’ve been more exciting if I’d been allowed to write down-to-earth missives like yours, but noooo, they had to be inspiring (gag), optimistic (rose-colored) and, my least favorite demand from one boss, “punchy.” There must a layer in hell reserved for those who have to write fake drivel that will be forgotten 30 seconds after they’re spoken. I feel like I’ve done my time there, and now I’m out.

    • Not sure there’s a worse job than that! I’m so sorry you had to write what sounds like fake stuff that doesn’t necessarily come from the heart. Graduates could so benefit from my wisdom. Or at least wisdom from anyone willing to keep it real.

  14. Hmm . . . Come to think of it, I have no memory of who my college commencement speaker was! Of course, that was more than a few years ago :-). I hope you get that call, Monica!

    • Perhaps if we’d put on our own resumes who our commencement speakers were, we wouldn’t be in this boat today! We’d be having fond memories of that, clearly, memorable day. 🙂

  15. A good chuckle, well delivered! At my commencement some 25 years ago, we were addressed by our university President. I do recall him saying ‘all what you’ve spent the last 4 years learning, is now redundent’. It rather sucked to hear it at the time but of course he was right…
    Oh and after some 20 years in HR, I, too, have seen my fair share of interesting ‘observations’ 🙂

    • I cannot remember the commencement speech at my graduation. I think I was in complete shock that I was actually being allowed to graduate, so the whole day was a bit of a blur, filled with lots of shock and awe.

  16. Yes, Monica. This is what they all need to hear. My daughter graduated recently and the same week she graduated she got an e-mail saying she got the post-grad internship she wanted. And she had ZERO clothes suitable for a job in a place where important people do serious business. She even had to buy shoes to cover her toes (somehow Ugg boots just weren’t acceptable. I know — crazy). So this is definitely the speech that they all need to hear.

    • Thank you, Julie. I’ve been in my career for about 30 years and have seen lots of young people come through, some of which have worked for me. From this, I’ve made lots of observations and draw my advice. 🙂

  17. “Brooke Shields spoke at your graduation? Maybe you do deserve this job.”
    This (almost) made me spit my coffee all over my keyboard. (Note to self: do not drink while reading Monica’s blog.)

    Funny and so true.

  18. This is fantastic. Were I a president of a university, I would certainly call you first. College has done our country the disservice of extending adolescence through the college years. Although I admittedly enjoyed this, it leaves us with a bunch of young 20somethings dumped out into the real world not knowing how to navigate. I’ll keep you posted if I hear of any openings 😉

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