Of ‘Speed Limits’ and ‘Bullshit’ at commencement

Two themes emerged from the speeches at my son’s college commencement Sunday — Slow down. And don’t take any bullshit.

First, the bullshit. The student who was selected to address the undergraduates told of growing up in Zimbabwe, how he was bitten by a poisonous snake and had to have his right leg amputated.

An older relative told him he was disabled and therefore useless, and shouldn’t bother to go to college. The student paused to let that sink in to the now-quiet grads and their families, and then said softly, “Bullshit.”

He won the crowd over at that moment. This young man, about to receive a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, immediately became my favorite commencement speaker ever.

The “elders” who spoke Sunday also were inspirational, including the college president who warned the graduates of the downside to this fast-paced world. He cited Mark Taylor’s book, “Speed Limits,” and how the push to do everything faster is taking a serious toll on us as individuals and as a society.

Slow down, the president said.

But here’s the thing that stuck with me more than that sage advice.

The president, and the commencement speaker he introduced, both gave a sobering nod to the instant gratification and short attention spans that surround us. Two or three minutes into his address, the president said he would keep it short because he had reached the point where the audience starts texting or sending messages.

Then the main speaker, early in her address, said she was worried about what the students would tweet about her — as she spoke.

While both those comments brought chuckles, they seem a sad reminder of how technology has taken over our lives, and is interfering with genuine human interaction. All for the sake of immediacy and, yes, superficiality.

I’m confident the hundreds of graduates and their families were paying attention yesterday. I just hope there’s enough space — not “bandwidth” — in their brains for those valuable lessons to stay with them.

So if you’ve gotten this far, here’s a reminder that’s short enough even for Twitter: Slow down. And don’t take any bullshit.

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About Jim McKeever

Observer, writer, father, runner based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in college, Irish Investigations, Technology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Of ‘Speed Limits’ and ‘Bullshit’ at commencement

  1. reocochran says:

    It is sad when a speaker feels his commencement message must be short, I agree this is upsetting. I also wish there were less people going out to eat and checking their cell phones while eating together. If they have this ‘bad’ habit, they should just stay at home! It is annoying. Savor your company, enjoy your relationship,. these are my thoughts about this trend.
    Meanwhile, I will try to not go on too long, since most people may be nodding off. ha ha!

    Like

    • Jim McKeever says:

      It’s a different world, isn’t it, Robin? I ran into a young man who was a classmate of my oldest son, who’s 26. He kept checking his phone in the middle of our conversation. It was ridiculous. I hope that’s not the norm for that age group. I felt like I was wasting his time, even though he came up to me and introduced himself.

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  2. Oh Jim, I love the young student’s speech the most. To be told of no worth, and to have the wisdom to know it was bullshit. I admire that.

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  3. You had my attention at “Bullshit.” How refreshing that speech must have been Jim! ❤
    Diana xo

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  4. chmjr2 says:

    As I write this I am sitting in a waiting area at the airport in Las Vegas. Of the 31 people here two are just staring off in space, three are reading books and two are eating lunch. The rest have their heads down looking at their electronic devices and I guess that includes me. While this may be common while waiting for a plane, my wife and I ate at a restaurant last night and we noticed that most of the people were not talking with each other. They had their heads down looking at their electronic toys. Anyway great post as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim McKeever says:

      Thanks, Charles … I think we’re old enough to appreciate being “unplugged” when the technology gets to be too much. I’m not so sure about anyone under about 35.

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  5. Great advice, Jim. I’d love to follow both. Last week, I was at a conference in St. Petersburg. The timing was bad for my blog. I usually post on Saturdays. So I decided to take a breather – to slow down – and to enjoy the world around me.

    As for that young man, his attitude is spot on. Don’t let any one tell you what you can’t do. Don’t set limits on your abilities. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. markbialczak says:

    Yes and yes, Jim. Short and to the point.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is a beautiful post Jim — and a great reminder to Slow down and not take any bullshit.

    thank you for your beautiful words on my blog today. I am deeply moved by them and your beautiful heart.

    Like

    • Jim McKeever says:

      Thank you very much, Louise … I heard the “mended cup of meaning” sermon more than 20 years ago, and I think of it now and then — usually when some mending is needed. 🙂

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  8. Angie Mc says:

    Slow down. And don’t take any bullshit.” <- This! My daughter's commencement at ASU 2 years ago was *phenomenal*. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Martin Dempsey spoke and was so impressive, so grounded.

    Like

  9. Greatly enjoyed this post. If there is a God, I wonder if he might not do something to save us from our own technological prisons.
    Thanks for giving us a breather from the distractions.

    Like

  10. Jim was an inspiring read. I love the young students story and so happy he did not listen to other people. I also know there is a time and a place for social media and hope people have the respect and put it away at such ceremonies. I guess I’m old school and when I asked my young nephew if he could go a day without his phone? He said no, because he would feel so disconnected and not know what anyone was up to. Hopefully he will find a balance.

    Like

    • Jim McKeever says:

      Thanks, Kath … I hope we all find that balance. There are plenty of good uses for technology, but there’s a definite downside. There’s a photographer who has posted photos of couples at restaurants and in other public settings who are both looking at their phones instead of talking to each other. Or even looking at each other, or at their surroundings. Enough already!

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