I wonder if she’s already writing it?

Because it is May, and because I once used the word “salutatorian” in a post about how stupid capitalism is, a top search that finds my blog is “what makes a good salutatorian speech?”

Kids, let me just say that I am the last person you should ask. I have never been a salutatorian. I was more the kind of student who screwed around and then sneered at the kids who thought they were smart, but who were obviously actually just working really hard. Because of this retrograde attitude and general lackadaisical approach, I came in 12th, not second, place. For the same reason, I also misspelled “salutatorian” the first time around.

Despite my total lack of credential, I want to offer you some advice on your speech. I may have never been a salutatorian myself, but I did date one. Or maybe he was a valedictorian, I can’t recall. In any case, he was the kind of person who was very smart and who also worked very hard. That is why he is now a doctor, while I remain a doctoral student.

Though my date’s actual rank my have receded into the distant haze of memory, I do recall his speech. He quoted it to me the night we met, in the back of a student ride van between elite liberal arts college campuses. It went like this:

A man goes to a monastery to find enlightenment. The program is that he meditate alone for a year at a time–no speaking, no singing, no human contact.

At the end of each year, the man is permitted exactly one word with the great teacher of the monastery as his only guidance through this intense spiritual task.

At the end of the first year, the man is approached by two monks and led to the top of the mountain where the teacher lives. He is led into the presence of the great man, who looks at him, inviting him to speak. The man says, simply, “The.”

He returns for another year of quiet contemplation. Again, two monks come to take him back to the teacher. This time, the man says “Food.” Then he goes back.

The third time our hero gains an audience with his guru, after 3 full years of arduous spiritual struggle, he looks at the teacher and say “Here,” and then returns to his isolation.

After four years, the now practiced student completes his sentence, relating the insights of his four-year-long meditation practice to the teacher, saying “Sucks!”

Now, I realize this is not an incredibly funny joke. But it is kind of funny as a dig at compulsory education, and I think my friend even managed to get in trouble for this speech. That is, if he even gave this speech. I have no way of knowing, so I can’t say whether using this silly joke as a salutatorian speech will work to earn you the campus-wide recognition that you deserve. But I do have it on good authority that sometime in the future, this speech just might help you get a lazy college freshman into bed on a first date.

Go boldly into the future, runners-up!

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