Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



   The word “commencement” is derived from the word “commence” which means “to begin.”  Yet we use the word “commencement” to describe what happens at graduation.  I find that fascinating.  Why would we use a word that means “to begin” at the end of something?
      Much to my surprise I have been asked to provide the commencement address to this year’s graduating class at the university I attended so long ago – Texas A&M University – Commerce, current enrollment of 10,000 students.  When the invitation came - while I was certainly honored – I could not help but think all my old professors who are now in heaven (and all those who are not) must surely be so disappointed.  “Do what?” they must have said when they heard the news.  “Surely you could get somebody better than that fellow.  Anybody but him.”
     Nevertheless, I plan to take a stab at it.  Like most people, not knowing about something has never stopped me from giving advice on the subject.  So, here’s what I plan to do…
At graduation ceremonies, the commencement speaker is supposed to tell all the graduating seniors - and their parents - things that are wise and funny, things that will “stick” with us as we begin our journey in life, and well, you know… things that are “smart.”  Even though I don’t know anything wise, funny, or smart, I still plan to take a stab at it.  It is a crying shame for those in attendance on that day that I could not have given this speech on the day I graduated from the university because on that day… I was smarter than I have ever been.  Somehow – sadly – all that wisdom has evaporated in the last forty years, and where it went I haven’t a clue.  Nevertheless, I still plan to take a stab at it.  What I’ve decided to talk about is all the things I wish the speaker at my graduation had mentioned.  Something like this…
     “Good morning ladies and gentlemen.  To all you graduating seniors, well done.  And to all you moms and dads who lived through the ordeal of getting your kid through college…even more well done!  Graduates, I am really impressed and happy for you that you have received your degree.  All your life your parents have told you, “Work hard, go to school, make good grades, get a college degree, get a good job…then you can be happy!  When we hear that all our life and we finally do it, we cannot help but think the hard part is over.  Actually, there are a few more things you have to do.  Here are some wise and funny and smart things for you to consider…

  1. You will do better in life if you learn how to interact with other human beings. I’m sure not a single one of your college professors ever mentioned that, and I am at a complete loss as to why they did not. Yet, you can really help yourself if you learn to meet people, make eye-contact, learn how to shake hands, and remember people’s names. Don’t say you can’t remember names. If you can get a degree, you can learn how to remember names. I’m not suggesting you become a phony St. Bernard who jumps on people and slobbers all over them. We don’t like people who do that. But we do like people who are authentic, genuine and sincere…and people who are kind and nice and have something you may have never heard of ‘cause its kinda’ out of fashion these days. Charm and manners. We are all impressed by those qualities. Develop them.

  2.  Cowboy Up. That is a term we use in the rodeo world that means when you get bucked off – when you are high in the air and about to land on your back in the middle of the arena in front of all those people – start making plans to get up before you ever hit the ground. That is the most important skill you can develop – and you better develop it. Because no matter how high your grade point average is, no matter how perfectly you have lived so far…once in a while, life is still gonna’ kick you right in the teeth. Might be the loss of a loved one, death of a good roping horse, fire, tornado, broken heart, or divorce – whatever it is, there will come a time when life hurts so bad, you cannot breathe. Unfortunately, at these times you will find that your college degree does not help one bit. I have never found anything that does. If you do, call me collect. Well, maybe I have found one thing that does. And that is, to remember when things go bad…cowboy up. Hang on. To remember we are stronger than we think. We are more than we know. We have not been short-changed by the Spirit. Let some time pass. You will laugh and dance again.

  3. Finally, remember what Anne Frank wrote - that 14-year old girl hiding in the attic from the Nazis…
    “In the long run, the most powerful weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.”
    In your life you will find nothing works better with children, with horses, or with the person you are married to.  Best thing I ever read.

So that’s about it.  That’s all the wise, funny, smart things I have to say.  Commencement is not the end.  It’s just the beginning.
I simply cannot believe they allowed someone like me to come and talk to all of you. I’m grateful. 
I wish you well.
Be sure and thank your momma and your daddy for this day. 
God help you.
I know He did me.


          Michael Johnson

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