The Graduation Speech

If you absolutely can’t wait, here is the speech for my graduation.  Enjoy!
Fellow graduates, esteemed faculty, loving family and friends, and those appreciated others who have come to see us off: I am immeasurably proud to be addressing the 489th graduating class of Dakota State University.
As I look out over this crowd, I am reminded of a joke.  It’s a fairly mediocre “Yo’ Mama” joke that goes, “Yo’ mama is so poor she couldn’t pay attention.”  And before you rush the stage to defend your mother’s honor, let me point out that there is at least one video camera recording evidence that can be used against you in a court of law.
The joke is a simple pun, not some grand, witty correlation between wealth and attention span, as some would imagine.  The word, “attention”, is defined by The Internet in at least six different ways, one of which is approximately, “Consideration or courtesy.”  It comes from the Middle English, which in turn came from the Latin from the past participle of the word attendere, which means to heed.
“But, Holli,” you say.  “You didn’t major in grammar, so why are you deliberately boring us with definitions?”  Touché, restless crowd.  “Attention” is special.  We talk about it like we can actually hold it, but you can’t purchase a bag of “attention” in the TC, no matter how much of your meal plan is left over.
We’ve all heard our parents or, worse, professors admonish us to “pay attention”.  An appropriate response is not “What am I?  Made of money?”  It gets a chuckle, like, five percent of the time.
However, if that same person is feeling a little less miserly, they might simply ask, “Can I have your attention?” like we have a plate full of leftovers at Christmas dinner.  Or they could possibly say, “Please, give me your attention,” after which they gaze at us, the givers, with a look of expectancy, as if we should get out our “attention purses” and give out “attention bucks”.
What makes attention so special?  Well, for one thing, I gave this speech to my kitchen last night, and I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I am now.  It’s not because this room is eleven hundred times the size of my kitchen, it’s because, suddenly, a lot of people are paying attention.  The “who” of “attention” matters greatly.  If Johnny Depp was helping me give this speech, I wouldn’t need that “Yo’ Mama” joke to get your attention.
“Attention” is the currency of “respect”, but it comes in positive and negative.
Picture a lion tamer with a whip and a chair, as the stereotype goes.  As he cracks the whip, the lions around him roar with hunger, eager to attack but fearful of his technique.  Now picture those same lions, that same tamer, but the lions are lounging in the sun, yawning, tails flicking carelessly.  A lion tamer is worthless if the lions don’t give a damn.
As graduates, we’ll be given special attention today: on this very stage moments from now, after the ceremony with our friends and family, and in every job interview for the rest of our lives.  Being a college graduate is a privilege that carries with it responsibility.  Whether we realize it or not, we will forever represent Dakota State University in our actions and our words from this day forward.  We are now a product of the attention that we have given and received, paid out and invested, and hopefully that will show through as we march off this campus to our new futures.
Insulting “yo’ mama” is not have been the most refined way of getting someone’s attention, but it usually works.  If you recall, however, I didn’t open with the “Yo’ Mama” joke.  If anyone can tell me what graduating class I said we were, then I’ll give you a prize.  Namely, my attention.
Thank you.