Mike McIntyre's Annual Crowdsourced Graduation Speech: Pandemic Edition

female graduate in cap and gown and surgical mask
The tradition continues, in a year many other traditions are on hold because of the coronavirus: Mike McIntyre offers crowdsourced advice to the Cleveland area's 2020 graduates. [SEWatson189 / Shutterstock]
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It’s time for my annual crowdsourced commencement speech, every word coming from friends who commented on my Facebook post asking for advice for the Class of 2020. This year’s speech is clearly shaped by the current coronavirus pandemic and has a decidedly hopeful tone — something we could all use right about now, graduates or not.

So, tighten up your mask, sit six feet away from any other graduate, and enjoy this crowdsourced commencement speech.         

To the Class of 2020:

Wash your hands!

As I gaze out upon this incredibly talented 2020 class of folding chairs, I remind you...

We're all in this together, but apart.

Although you may be disappointed not having a formal graduation, your class of 2020 is likely to be remembered as the most famous class in school history.

You will have a unique story to tell throughout your life about the circumstances of your senior year.

How you respond to circumstance is more important, more defining, more lasting than circumstance itself. When you look back on this very disappointing time, how you emerged from it will help define you.

Your parents always talked about their long walks to school, uphill both ways in the snow. But you? You get to tell the tale of surviving Zoom classes, bad Wi-Fi and always being able to find a seat at the lunch table.

Kudos to the Class of 2020 not only for your accomplishments, but also for giving up the commencement celebrations in order to contain COVID-19. You could proudly share the story of your sacrifice with your children and grandchildren.

At no time since WWII has our great responsibility as individuals been as important for the health and welfare of our country and fellow person as it is today because of the pandemic. Realize the important role you all play and continue to help those around you as you go forward in life so your country can be stronger tomorrow than it is today.

We trust you.    

Don't stress out over the things you can't control.

While things may sometimes seem frightening and unsettling, always remember that with hopefulness, and with preparation and the proper tools, we are all capable of a new and sanguine beginning.

Sometimes the worst things in life that happen to you can be the best things that happen to you, if you don't let the worst of it get the best of you.

This too, shall pass. And the best is certainly yet to come. Find the joy. It’s there somewhere.

If you spend your life simply following directions, the only place you'll end up is where somebody else has already been. Chart your own course. And don't be afraid to take the scenic route.

After you have done your research, and weighed all of the choices, follow your gut.

Always eat cookies.

Remember, when the waiter asks if everything tastes fine, he’s not asking because he cares about you, he’s trying to determine if you have COVID-19 and can’t taste anything.

What you choose to believe will affect you and the people in your life. Please choose to believe in things that help you and your neighbors and avoid believing in things that breed only anger or mistrust.

There are many similarities between people, but the differences are real, too – don’t expect people to think and react the same way you do.

Things don’t matter, people matter. Trust people, but not completely.

People can’t see your smile behind the mask, let them know you are smiling with your actions.              

Always "show up.” It may look different these days, but find a way to "show up" in new and innovative ways.

Don’t forget the mute button.

Listen, really listen to people around you. Try to see the world from their point of view. But don’t be afraid to be your own person.

Have character. And be one.

You will be remembered more for your kindness than for your accomplishments.

Life brings opportunities and obstacles. Pursue the opportunities; be persistent and patient getting past the obstacles.

Call for backup. 

Don't be afraid to make mistakes but do learn from the mistakes of others; it's cheaper and more efficient. Never be afraid to question the way things are done and don't be satisfied with the inevitable response "because that's the way we have always done it"

You can’t smoke a wet cigar.

Our legacy is in our actions and voting is among the easiest of actions to take. Vote! People died for that right.

Always look to learn, to grow, to try new things, to screw those new things up, and to only understand the path you were on when you look back. Be a reasonable adventurer.

Believe in yourself no matter what happens.

Follow your heart, but use your head.

Laugh, it beats the hell out of crying.


Listene to more Advice to the Class of 2020 on The Sound of Ideas. 

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