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Commencement Address


As I gaze out upon this sea of colors: The blues, the golds, the pinks, the greens, I cannot help but think of a candy factory--spilling M&Ms out into a big bowl.  We’re all sitting here in our hard-shell candy coating with the monogram stamped in the middle.  Everyone has a different color but the shape, size and flavor are all uniform and distinctly “M&M”--or should I say--distinctly “G.P.”  But even though the outside is hard, the inside is all soft and sweet and squishy.  They’re all very pretty and it’s a safe, comfortable, beautiful way of life.

But now that I’m leaving, I wonder how much I’ll have to compromise, sell myself out to get back here once I have gone.

You come across a lot of tests, obstacles on your way to becoming a financial and social success.  Obstacles like Honesty, Morality and Selfishness. Living for yourself is Selfish, and if you aren’t living for other people, what do you expect to get from them?  How could you hope to fit in?  Selfish people are alone and do what they want which is, quite often, “Not acceptable”.  Moral people have troubles, too.  Living up to your version of right and wrong, you might come across someone who thinks differently and if that someone is important to your success, disagreeing might be dangerous.  Moral people are alone and do what they have to do which is frequently, “Not acceptable”.  Honest people can be embarrassing.  Sometimes they say what you don’t want to hear--the wrong thing at the wrong time...Honest people are rare and do what is their nature to do which is, often times, “Not acceptable”.

There are many painful tests of character on the the way to the great M&M bowl.  I suppose that’s why M&Ms crawl into their shells.  Shells don’t show scars or feel the pain.  Shells don’t feel at all.  If people are never able to see past your shell, you could die in there and no one, no one would ever know it.  DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN!  Don’t wither away in a hard, cold, unchanging shell that will walk around for years after you’re dead to mock the beauty that it once held.  What a lousy way to die.  It would be more pleasant to go loony by accident.  It’s also an easy way to die.  Easy.

What’s so great about easy?  We have maybe eight decades to take from life, tops. And when these caps hit the sky, we’ve seen almost two of them already.  That’s how short they are.  I’m told they get shorter as you go on.  So why look for all the easy’s to life?  Are you that tired, already?  I saw Florida and I saw Spring Fever hit South and I know we’re not tired.  Just Confused.

Well, everything around us is not as solid as we trust it to be.  An M&M bowl could be smashed just like that, leaving broken glass and broken M&Ms scattered all over the place.  And all M&Ms would be left each to his own.  An M&M might have to fight just to survive from hour to hour with nothing left to him but what he believes in.

So don’t sell yourselves short of personal integrity, my fellow M&Ms.  It may make it harder to get what you want easily, but integrity is one thing that cannot be lost unless you wish it.  Or sell it.  Anything else will come and go.  Look at what you’re losing today.  Now, you decide what you want and what you are willing to surrender for it.  Choose well.

High School Commencement, 1979

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