Good afternoon, Class of 2009. Welcome to your required college commencement address delivered by someone you never heard of containing platitudes you will soon forget, such as “onward and upward.” If you don’t know the direction by now, it’s too late. Looking out at your smiling, expectant and innocent faces would give me a thrill except that, due to the Swine Flu scare, you are all listening to me on conference call. That’s fine, because this speech is a freebee gig – I don’t even rate an honorary degree – and I sure don’t want to become sick. With my HMO, I get a blood test, an X-ray and a toe tag. For the past four years, or for some of you five or six, you have been introduced to a fine and expensive education. Whether you partook of it was up to you. You have been living on pizza and beer, sleeping through those 8 o’clock classes and learning how to e-mail, iPhone, Tweet and text message while pretending to take notes in biology lab. This reminds me, one of the worst clichés these days is based on your studies. When pointing out how simple something is, those who are rhetorically challenged call the solution “Economics 101” or “Politics 101.” As I recall, Topiary 101 was darn hard, especially the third time. Many of you will graduate with huge student loans to repay. Just copy your parents’ plans for their federal costs and pass the IOUs on to your children. Yes, you may have heard that my generation is leaving you a crushing federal debt. Don’t believe it. The estimated population of the United States is 306,127,261, so each citizen’s share of this debt is $36,660.58, but it should skyrocket when those trillion-dollar bailouts come due. We are fighting two wars, the treasury is bankrupt, our bridges are falling down, Detroit is dead and our environment is suffocating. The rest of the world hates us because they think we torture. This includes a billion Muslims who hate us even more because we invaded Iraq. Some say Barack Obama must feel like he was made commander of Pearl Harbor Dec. 8 . Nonsense. It is obvious that we have left you a perfect world. Don’t screw it up. As for your future, they say every journey begins with a single step. Let me tell you, every journey ends the same way. In between, there are a lot of steps, not to mention stumbles and blisters. As you slog along, be sure to watch out for bear traps and land mines which go by various names: hedge fund investments, alimony and the vice squad. For you, step No. 1 is finding work. Graduating today are students who majored in philosophy, history and sociology. Good luck on getting a job. There aren’t any. On the other hand, we have graduates in engineering, journalism and architecture. You won’t find jobs either, although you may look for positions in philosophy, history and sociology. Five million jobs have been lost since the recession began, and this doesn’t count the underemployed, as my yardman, Dr. Nguyen Kim, was telling me. But there are openings for shepherds, unindicted bank presidents, border coyotes, and GM needs a CEO. If you want a job on Wall Street, learn how to do the perp walk, and be able to toss out expressions such as green shoots, under water, claw back and double down. If you want to work for the government, learn how to say shovel ready and stress test, also, “Will you take a trillion dollar IOU?” in Mandarin. Remember doctors still make an excellent living. You get a broken leg or a bad heart, you’ll have a doctor actually treat you because you’re too young for Medicare’s paltry payment. As for lawyers, if you’re rich and guilty, you need a lawyer. Also, in this economy, there is a strong market for repo men and bounty hunters. Uncle Sam wants you. It used to be said that, “The Marines are looking for a few good men.” Now the Marines and the Army are looking for lots of men and women, good or otherwise. You’re fat, out of shape and an alcoholic? Hold up your right and hand and swear the oath. You got a criminal record, drug problem, can’t hack it as a taxidermist’s model? The military has an opening. The Army is so hard up for new troops it is offering huge bonuses. The Marines will even take someone who’s been in the Army. Why these openings when it’s so hard to get a job in the private sector? Can you spell WMD? If all else fails in the job market, do as your profs did: go to grad school. Or you can move back in with your folks. Sure, your dad has been laid off at the asbestos mine and your mom is working the night shift at Wal-Mart, but they can use the rent money you get from the DEA for ratting on your meth provider. For guidance and support, pray to Saint Ponzi of the Soup Line, or you can do as our leaders do: blame the press. Finally, every commencement address should contain some advice. George Will recently observed, “Never play poker with a man named Slim, never buy a Rolex from a guy who’s out of breath, and never take financial advice from someone who is shouting at you on TV.” To that I would add, never vote for an incumbent and avoid ID theft by changing your name to Occupant. We all know the expression, never take a knife to a gunfight. I recommend you avoid gunfights in the first place. Next May another freshman class will be sitting in these very chairs, all thinking the same thing: “When I graduate, how can I get your job?” You have a one year head start. Get busy. Ashby has class at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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