Saturday, August 15, 2009

To the Class of '92

You all look great
I’m sorry it’s raining today
but sunny days are kind
of simple minded. A nice
grey day for the class of
’92, I mean how could it
be any other way. And
look at the world we’re
releasing you into. Are
you sure you want to
go. I definitely didn’t
want to leave college
when I was in school.
I didn’t even like the
school I went to
but do you think that
made a lot of difference?
I was quaking. I wanted
to keep making sandwiches
in my mother’s house &
taking the bus in & then
the train. I didn’t like
doing it, but I didn’t
want it to end ever.
It’s sort of like youth
& that’s why you are.
& that’s why you look
great. You’re all so
fucking radiant that
even on a rainy day
you cut right through
& I feel moved. I’ve
got to warn you
this is not going to be a short
speech. I am not windy,
but I am certainly not
brief. I think you asked
me to speak at your
graduation because you
like my campaign &
you want me to win.
Well I want you to win
too. If we can’t all
become president of
the united states then
I think no one
should. Do you know
what I mean? Spiritually
at least. When I went
to college everyone was
very spiritual. I mean
not at my little commuter
U. but certainly at a
school like this. Certainly
the class of ’71 had
a mind for those things. Very few wore
caps & gowns anywhere
& actually most people
didn’t go to graduation
Ceremony = tedium &
we wanted no part
of that. We wanted
to be fre. How
many of you
want to be free
today. It doesn’t
make sense. Wanting
that is like wanting
nothing. And if everyone
can’t be free why
should anyone. I don’t
want to be president
of the united states
so I can free people.
Or, so I can free my
ambitions, unleash
my will upon America.
Let Mr. Perot do that.
Freedom is ineffable.
Can we hold that spot
for a moment. Because I
think you’re incredibly
free here, at this moment
perched on this maybe
meaningful precipice
of life. And I mean
that “maybe” with
all my heart. I was
really delighted when
I was asked to speak
here today. Because
this is such a good
school. Some of
you come from rich
families & it was no
sacrifice for them
to send you here
& some of you
are on scholarships & loans, maybe
most of you, right. So you’ll
never forget this school. But
it’s a nice place, very beautiful
& protected—I kind of envy
you and I feel obliged by
all of these things—my envy
my delight & even my sense
of duty to kind of underline
the meaning of this moment
when you are leaving school.
It seems very short to me
now. The time you spent
here, 4 years goes very
fast so perhaps what you’ll
be saying goodbye to when
you leave here is slow
time. (Long silence.) Wasn’t
that hell? Something in
me gets de-railed mentally,
it’s always been so. I
make most of my living
as a public speaker, this
is what I do & yet I
freeze up like a deer in
the light of your attention &
like something that’s bound
to be killed by the swerve
of your attention I’ve
begun to relish it. Because
it’s so slow before you
die. Think of this
way—you’re dying now.
I just knew I’d say the
wrong thing. People are dying now.
Maybe it’s you. How different you’d
look at today if it was about
your death. How cruel of us to
come & watch. To make our
speeches ot honor you. To see
you sitting here in tears on this
rainy day. There’s something really
interesting about that. You didn’t
ask for the normal speaker &
you won’t get a normal speech.
Hillary Clinton gets paid
more than me for lying
to you. So does Barbara
Bush. Graduation day is
meaningless. I respect you all a lot
more than us, you parents’
generation. Twenty years
ago with our reverence for nothing.
You are clinging to the forms that
are handed to you, but you know
they are nothing. Isn’t that true.
This is not the fifties. You
don’t believe in those gowns.
After all of us have finished
talking the band will strike
up a song you have never heard
before & you will be expected
to sing. But you can’t. The
words are gone, you wish you
could sing them but the death
of forms is all around you.
You are the most human class
of all. You have invited me
to speak today because I
love you. It’s not what
you expected from a political candidate
but I didn’t expect to get asked
to speak at the end of the world.
Think of yourselves as chosen.
It’s true in a way. You could
be holding a gun, you could be dying
racked by coughs with so many tubes,
you could be tired of dying like that.
It happens to some people. People
you know. There are women
squeezing babies out of their
loins, such a moment &
the lights go out. He never
knew what happened. She didn’t
know what hit her. Some of you
have watched a parent die. As
they inch out of your world
you step up to the diving board
of life, imagine it, a broad
one for all of you. In your
little red cloaks, the candidates,
all ready to walk out into
the world to change it. To
what! It’s much too
late. I’d like my check.
I’ve got to go. Rodney
Kind says we’re stuck
here. Are we? Need each other
as much as you can bear.
Everywhere you go in the
world.

-Eileen Myles