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Alice Kahn

A Few Tips for Entering New World

June 25, 1989|Alice Kahn

Boys and girls, men and women, guys and dolls, straights and gays, people of color and bland people, abled people, disabled people and those too lazy to work for a living, amigos and bubbelehs, artsy types and rip-off artists, avowed communists and Satanic cultists, atheists and crystal healers, feminists and misogynists, libertarians and vegetarians, computer hackers and hack writers, trendies and nerds, Deadheads and skinheads, sadists, masochists and those caught in the middle:

Here in the United States, diversity is our most important product. We used to make cars and clothes and steel, but now we leave that to other, less interesting people.

You have asked me to speak today because you hope I will help you make sense of the world. You hope I will use wit and humor, yet make a meaningful point. But I will not use wit and humor, and I will not make sense of the world. My point here is that betrayal is a basic fact of life.

You have heard a lot about how my generation from the '60s is different from your generation in the '80s, how we wanted to save the Earth while you only want to save yourselves. Some of you were burdened by your parents with names like Sunshine and Rainbow and Jennifer that you've had to change to John and Jim and Jenny P.

Well, I'm here to tell you it's OK. I want to validate your existence. I'll also validate your parking without violating your space.

As a graduate of this high school, you have earned the right to call yourself a high school graduate, with all the rights and prestige that infers. But with rights come responsibilities. In a few years, you will be old enough to drink--but will it still taste as good? Soon, you will be able to cross state lines--but can you think of a reason why? Soon, you will get to vote for the people who run this country. Then you can share in that great democratic experience known as regret.

As you go forth, you are probably worried about the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. And if you weren't worried about it, we have tried our best to remind you of it every day these past four years.

In my generation, we believed in sexual liberation. "Make love, not war"--that was our slogan. We had festivals and human be-ins where people danced uninhibitedly in nothing but their head bands and love beads. But it wasn't really that great. Some of them had terrible bodies, and were really awful dancers. So don't feel you missed anything. Technology has provided safe alternatives for your generation, such as phone machines, computers and good fax.

After graduation, some of you will enter college. Others will enter the economy. And some of you will refuse to leave your room.

Those who go quietly will find a time of peace and prosperity, but there are uncertainties in the economy. Some of you are probably wondering where to put your money should you be fortunate enough to earn any. I would recommend a balanced portfolio--some blue chip stocks, a mutual fund, a small amount of cash and a few close friends in Tokyo.

I know that graduation speakers are supposed to exhort the young to solve the problems of their time. So I would encourage you to make sacrifices, to forgo personal wealth, to have a career in public service--to be the next Jim Wright or John Tower.

Now, I hope I haven't left you with the impression that I'm negative about the future. Actually, I feel the future looks much brighter because you are in it. If my generation taught me anything, it's this: Beware of world savers. Also, don't follow leaders, and look out for parking meters.

Those of you who were named Dylan will know what I'm talking about.

What I do hope is that each of you will find yourself a little job, get yourself a little place to call home and find somebody to love. It really isn't all that complicated. Then you'll wake up and hear the birds singing and see the sun rising and smell the roses blooming. Create your own world and you'll have one worth saving.

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