Marc placed third in the inaugural Trop Short Fake College or High School Class President Commencement Address Contest.
As a leader of the living-impaired community, I want to thank you for this invitation to speak today. This is a great honor and a big stagger forward for those of us who are so often misunderstood and caricatured on television and in films. Before I forget, let me give a shout out to your Adaptive Services division for my computer-generated voice, which makes me sound a little like Stephen Hawking whose disability has not kept him from reaching the very pinnacle of his profession thanks to his irresistibly beautiful brain.
And isn’t that what we are all here to celebrate today—brains? What do I see when I look out at all of you, you who are ready to remake the world and who are—moreover—alive? I see brains. I see literate brains shaped by English literature, succulent culinary science brains, brains salty from oceanography, well-tuned auto mechanics brains, dramatic theater arts brains, fashionable fashion studies brains, brains made slippery by philosophy, artistic brains, historical brains, technologically savvy brains, and brains which your years at this university have enhanced to such a degree that they are a real pleasure to contemplate.
The Merrian-Webster Dictionary defines “brain” as “intellectual endowment,” or “a very intelligent or intellectual person.” But there’s another definition I prefer, “the portion of the vertebrate central nervous system enclosed in the skull and continuous with the spinal cord through the foramen magnum.”
Of course, a well-rounded life requires more than brains—it requires heart. Warm, blood-pumping hearts. And livers, kidneys and spleens. And intestines. And gallbladders. And eyeballs. But I digress.
You stand here today on the verge of remarkable careers after your college years, a time which is something of a hiatus from living—I mean, from making a living—these years are a kind of Eden. But you must leave here just as Adam had to leave the Garden after taking that fateful bite of brains—I mean apple. You can’t go home again—I’ve tried. We all change. Think of the Scarecrow who could not go back to his field and be content with scaring crows after receiving his diploma from the Wizard, which finally convinced him that all along he had been in possession of what he most wanted—what we all most want—brains.
I urge you to be life-long learners. Stay curious, don’t let the world leave you behind, keep growing your brains. After all, where would you be without your brains? Let me give you a moment to contemplate that. So never stop learning and remember—I’ll be there behind you. Let me wrap up because what’s left of my stomach is grumbling and I was told there would be brains—I mean lunch.
So, in conclusion, just remember: Follow your bliss. The future is bright. The sky’s the limit. You stand on the brains of giants. I mean shoulders. Never slow down. Seriously, never slow down. Today is the first day of the rest of your brains, I mean life. Now let’s eat.
Second place will appear tomorrow. Read all of the winning entries.
Marc J. Sheehan is the author of two poetry collections—Greatest Hits and Vengeful Hymns. His flash fiction story “Objet du Desir” won the Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Contest sponsored by the public radio program Selected Shorts and was read on stage in New York by David Rakoff. His flash fiction story “The Dauphin” was broadcast on Weekend All Things Considered as part of its Three-Minute Fiction series. Other pieces of his short fiction have recently appeared in Passages North, Pithead Chapel and The Museum of Americana.