10 ½ Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said by Charles Wheelan

By Charles Wheelan

Modeled on Charles Wheelan’s 2011 category Day Speech at Dartmouth university, this choice of refreshingly sincere suggestion and observations is the antidote to these cotton-candy platitudes which are all too well-known to a person who’s ever worn a mortarboard. Armed with a PhD in public coverage, decades of expertise in social technology study, and—perhaps such a lot important—good-natured humor, Wheelan bargains up 10½ head-turning aphorisms on happiness and luck that anybody staring down the barrel of commencement must listen yet most likely hasn’t heard but. Celebrated New Yorker cartoonist Peter Steiner provides a marginally of caprice together with his irreverent illustrations sprinkled all through.

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I’d hear my neighbors drive off to work, one by one. The morning slant of sun would climb toward noon and then shift its slant for afternoon. One by one my neighbors returned. Evening settled over the field, the cats took up their hunting in the long grass, and finally night descended. Though I was grateful for the care I was receiving here in this white room, I was not at home. It was hard enough that my body was a bizarre and bewildering place, but I was homesick as well. I was far from the things that delighted me, the wild woods that sustained me, and the social network that enriched me.

As I watched it eat, I noticed that it nodded its head gently up and down. Did this mean that it approved of its dinner? When I examined what remained of the mushroom after it had dined, I could see a pattern of fresh teeth marks—very fine little vertical striations, as if made by a tiny comb. Half the fun of having the snail as a companion was that it kept finding new sleeping places. So there was an ongoing game of hide-and-seek in the terrarium. It would blend so well into the woodland plants that I’d have to sleuth out its latest hiding spot.

They would worry about wearing me out, but I could also see that I was a reminder of all they feared: chance, uncertainty, loss, and the sharp edge of mortality. Those of us with illnesses are the holders of the silent fears of those with good health. Eventually, discomfort moved through my visitors, nudging a hand into motion, a foot into tapping. The more apparent my own lack of movement, the greater their need to move. Their energy would turn into restlessness, propelling their bodies into action with a flinging of the arms or a walk around the room; a body is not meant to be still.

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