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!