Monday, May. 18, 2009

A Grim Graduation

Good morning, graduates, and congratulations. It's hard to believe how far you've come since freshman orientation, when you didn't even know the difference between the historical tyranny of patriarchal norms and the tyrannical patriarchy of normative historicity. [Pause for knowing laughter.] We hope these four years have been not just enlightening but also joyful, invigorating, even — dare we say — as lusty as a May meadow. Because, baby, the party's over. [Pause for rueful laughter.]

We've got good news and bad news, graduates. Remember back in 1991, when you were about 4 years old and your parents were driving you from Montessori to tot-aerobics class? Mozart was on the car stereo, stimulating your little brain. And Mom explained that your future was all laid out. Your strong preschool record had placed you into a grade-school gifted-and-talented program, which, with hard work, would lead to the Advanced Placement curriculum in high school. That — plus captaincy of the lacrosse team, strong test scores and a record of eco-conscious community activism — would lead to college, the key to a satisfying and rewarding job.

The good news is, Mom was mostly right. Here you are! The bad news is, we're a little short on jobs. [Pause for nervous chuckle.] How short? We're down about 6 million since the bubble popped. When half a million new jobless claims are filed in a single month, we call it an "improvement." And forget about older folks making room for you by retiring, because they can't afford to anymore.

Many of you already know this. According to a new survey, fewer of you are even looking for jobs than in previous classes, and 4 out of 5 of those searching have come up empty. The only green shoots you'll be seeing in this economy are the ones you'll be mowing at your parents' house. But take heart, graduates! Every class harbors dreams of remaking the world. We've spared you the trouble of busting up the old one. No need to thank us.