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The graduation speech I never delivered

Good evening. I’d like to skip the usual congratulatory remarks that graduation speakers feel compelled to make and use this precious time to address those of you who are going to college. However, if you’re among those who are not continuing your education, you will not be ignored. If fact, I’ll probably be speaking to you quite frequently after tonight … through the speaker at Jack in the Box.

It is one of those sad facts of life that a high school diploma in the 21st century tells a potential employer only that you have developed the skill of being able to sit passively for 12 years. But, actually, an employer doesn’t need to see a college degree to know if a candidate is prepared for meaningful work. The way you speak, your ability to handle mathematics, and your degree of self-confidence are all testaments to your level of education.

Start a sentence with, “Me and my friend…,” and you’ve demonstrated a lack of ability with the English language. Having to look at the readout on a cash register before you make change is another clue. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a situation like this: My bill is $9.07; I give the clerk a $10 bill, a nickel and two pennies. The clerk returns my seven cents, and then gives me 93 cents in additional coins. Or the person in line just in front of me has three containers of yogurt, but the price is 4 for $5. The clerk picks up the microphone and asks for a price check.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that all students who are going to college know that the correct beginning to the sentence is, “My friend and I…” It doesn’t mean that they can understand that I wanted a dollar bill as change. And, students going on to college can’t all figure out that each container of yogurt is $1.25. In fact, about 58 percent of students entering the California State University system have been found to be unprepared for English, math or both. At California State University Los Angeles and CSU, Dominguez Hills, (near Long Beach), that figure is about 90 percent...


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