The Advice That Most 2020 Commencement Speakers Won’t Give

Here’s the speech that graduates need to hear.

You’re graduating, as of course you know, into world-historical vertigo. (Alan Varajas / EyeEm / Getty / The Atlantic)

Esteemed Class of 2020,
your commencement speaker this year
should be a destroyed celebrity
or the Fool from King Lear.
Someone whose inside is on the outside,
someone who’s kind of already died.
Instead it’s fallen to me.
So let’s see.

Do I offer commiseration
to this groundbreakingly screwed generation?
You’re graduating, as of course you know,
into world-historical vertigo.
The prophecies are now fulfilling
with a whining sound, like early Dylan.
The bullyboy rides with the lethal weasel.
Justice has flat tires and smells of diesel.
The gargoyle climbs the wobbling spire
and the seat of government’s pants are on fire.
And now, infesting the present tense,

Your grandparents had to take LSD
to blow up consensus reality.
But to you the chaos is revealed.
The subatomic has been unsealed.
The iceberg shrugs and slides into the sea.

You, dear graduates, know the score.
You know it now, and you knew it before.
The Fact, of every concealment stripped,
is the very thing for which you are equipped.
Your brains are 5 percent chemical spill,
5 percent active-shooter drill,
90 percent original brilliance,
visions and ideas in their squillions.

Fall to pieces. Delete your thesis.
Break up the ships that chase golden fleeces.
Your pure imaginations
will fight angelic wars
as the talons of the sunset
touch the socially distanced stars.
Yours, all yours, is the future of America
and its promise without measure.

No pressure.