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Jewish World Review June 2, 1999 /18 Sivan, 5759

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
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Commencement '90s-Style

(JWR) ---- (
MEMBERS OF THE CLASS OF 1999, it is customary upon these occasions for the commencement speaker -- who must, after all, be a great and wise person -- to offer some advice on what lies ahead in life for such splendid and fortunate young people as yourselves. It is customary also for this advice to be uplifting, which is to say divorced from the realities of life. I will endeavor a different approach.

As you go forward, remember that the main thing is to go forward. Work, work, work. Litigate, litigate, litigate. Consume, consume, consume, conspicuously. Marry young, repent at leisure, marry younger yet. Always advance, for, as it is written, advances lead declines. Stop not to think, ever. Society rightly abhors this solitary vice, and misery and perversity are its only rewards. Thinking leads to thought and thought leads to differentiation, and the different are properly shunned in all species.

So, fill your time and your mind, such as it is, not with the solipsistic selfishness of reflection but with the study of the great popular culture that surrounds and speeds by you, forever and ever, world without end, amen. Somewhere, every two hours, a new movie is released -- admittedly, some of them go straight to video, but those count too. Every hour, a new self-help tract is published. Every 30 minutes, a new gourmet food item is discovered and, simultaneously, a diet is invented. Every 15 minutes, a star is born, and every eight minutes, a star enters rehab. Every four minutes, a pundit speaks, mostly on cable. Every two minutes, federal researchers identify a trend, and every 60 seconds, a trend passes.

He, or she, who fails to be part of this world is part of no world. Pity the soul who cannot intelligently discuss Ally McBeal, who knows not the difference between the Backstreet Boys and the Beastie Boys, who saw not the Titanic go down on the large screen, who surfs not the Web, who uses still the pay telephone on the streetcorner. That soul shall be cast out into the wilderness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, and nothing to amuse but books. Never turn off, always tune in, do not unplug. Staple a cell phone to your head. Keep sacred the holy days -- Super Bowl Sunday, March Madness, Oscar night, the Grammies, the Emmies, the sweeps.

Do not age gracefully. Medicate thyself always. As the halcyon days of your childhood were comforted by Ritalin and the insomnia of your sophomore slump was alleviated by Halcyon, so shall you benefit from pharmaceuticals all the days of your life. Contour your body. If the cellulite of thy right thigh offend thee, pluck it out. Ditto, thy left thigh, not to mention thy spreading derriere: For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Accept not imperfections, for imperfections are not perfect, and we are perfectible. Implant your breasts and uplift your pecs and have your lipids sucked away. Trim your nose and cleave your chin and collagenize your lips. For, as it is written, it's your duty to be beautiful.

Contribute heavily to the political parties of your choice. God, and also the president and the speaker of the House, loveth a cheerful giver. Spread the wealth among the many; whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. As it is true that to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required, so the converse is also true. He, or she, who gives much may demand much, much in return. Be not shy about claiming from your elected officials that which, after all, you have paid for.

Which leads me to an obvious point: Make money. Make as much as you can, however you can, as fast as you can. Create not for sake of creation but for the sake of the initial public offering. Get in on the ground floor. Look out for No. 1. Take shares over salary. Carpe diem and carpe the other guy's diem too, when he's not looking. Get your cut from the gross, not the net. And, finally, dear members of the class of 1999, if I can proffer only one piece of advice above all, it is this: Become a celebrity. Ours is a just and righteous land, and all are equal in the eyes of the law. But some are more equal than others, and the most equal are those who have graced the covers of People, Time, Us and Rolling Stone. Hold before you always the shining examples of Latrell Sprewell, O.J. Simpson, Marv Albert, and of course our first celebrity president, William Jefferson Clinton.

And, remember, nobody pays retail anymore, why should you?

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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