Elected by his classmates, Samuel Charles Deeran ’12, of Falmouth, Maine,
gave the class speaker’s address at Colby’s 191st Commencement, May 20, 2012.
I am the right and honorable Samuel Charles Deeran. I welcome you, one and all, to the Comedy Central roast of Tony Blair. I’d introduce my fellow roasters but I’m sorry to say I have no idea who these people are.
But seriously, welcome and good morning to you, the trustees, faculty, staff, parents, friends, family, and the Class of 2012. Welcome to Maine. I would like to knight you all honorary Mainers right now with a “Sure, sure, how you doin’ there bub?”
I’d like to start with some thank-yous. Senior week has spun me through every emotion known to man, but what I am left with today is gratitude. To the trustees, administration, and alumni, thank you for your stewardship of this institution. Colby would not be Colby without your efforts.
To the professors, no matter what the subject material, you taught us what it means to be citizens. Whether we end up as poets, engineers, or economists, we will act as citizens with your lessons in mind.
To the parents and guardians, it has been an honor and pleasure to meet with you this weekend. Your love, guidance, and devotion is what got us to where we are today, and so this ceremony I dedicate to you.
I can’t believe I’ve been chosen to speak with former Prime Minister Tony Blair. We are sort of a mismatch. It’s like your parents took you out to the nicest restaurant in town and ordered you the nicest dish on the menu, and when the waiter came around to see what you wanted for a wine pairing, you asked for a bag of Franzia. And that’s how I intend to be today. Like Franzia. Sweet, but ultimately disgusting.
I’d like the powers that be to know that I expect all the same benefits for speaking as Mr. Tony Blair. That includes a private flight directly following the speech, a fluffernutter sandwich, and a personal play date with George W. Bush.
Now to the students, I want to make a promise to all of you. I promise not to riddle this speech with cheap shout-outs to my favorite clubs and organizations on campus. It’s my job to Echo the sentiments of our class and to act as the Bridge between past and present. I won’t try and sting you with politically correct buzzwords like some sort of PCB. Instead I want this to be a universal story of Mayflower Hillel.
I want to debunk a prevalent myth, and it’s that today you will enter the real world. We say that as if tomorrow you will walk back through a wardrobe in your attic the same hazy morning you left for college, and the second you pop out your mother will scream from downstairs, “Get down here. It’s time to sweep the chimney.” I use that example because of course because at my house I sweep the chimney. I do understand the belief that Colby is somehow unreal, with its manicured lawns, trimmed trees, and immaculate brick, it sometimes looks less like a campus and more like an architectural mockup of a campus on which a wizard cast an enlargement spell.
That’s right, Colby once had wizards. If you don’t believe me, look at what you’re wearing.
My sophomore year at Colby began to feel particularly unreal. I was failing to imagine how what I was doing at Colby would help me in the real world. And so, I began to resent my surroundings. Certain escapist fantasies took hold. So in the fall of my junior year I dropped out and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a fledgling career as a stand-up comic. Within two weeks, I was broke. I applied to over two hundred jobs and finally found myself working as a telemarketer. Day after day, the tireless Los Angeles sun was shriveling my soul into a California raisin.
While there, I rarely spoke with my family and never with my friends. I thought I was done with that world. After all, it wasn’t quite real to me. One day, out of nostalgia, I decided to call a friend from work so I put on my headset, made sure my boss wasn’t listening, and called Mike Rifkin. “Hi Mike, this is Sam from West Direct Marketing in southern California. Do you have a couple minutes to talk about a fantastic work from home opportunity?” To which he quickly replied, “Sorry I’m not interested.”
I realized then how terribly ungrateful and neglectful I had been towards everything that was true and sincere in my world. I had gone on thinking that a magical real world existed somewhere and that I just needed to find it, but I knew then that it wasn’t the real world that was lost and needed to be found. I had lost real and genuine motivation, genuine compassion, and genuine humor. So I deflated my air mattress, packed my bags, and flew back home to Maine. By the good grace of my dean and my parents I came back to Colby for Jan Plan. From that day forward, I atoned for my previous apathy with a genuine interest in Colby’s hardships and splendors. It’s funny, in comedy when you do well, you kill, and when you do badly, you bomb. Kill and bomb, Both are linguistically tied to death, but to me they mean rebirth. I bombed that semester in Los Angeles as a comedian, but more importantly as a son, a friend, and a student of this fine institution.
Time and time again you have heard from people in positions of authority or prestige that failure is a key ingredient to success. I tell you, in the midst of many ongoing failures, that bombing is more than okay. It’s not just something to be endured, it’s something to be enjoyed. Bombing, failure of any kind, is exhilarating. It is the quick and decisive determination of what does not work. It is shared, only slightly personal, and makes your world ripe for change.
It’s wrong to think that there’s a distinct world out there that is real. It’s insulting to the world you live in. There are many real worlds. Or perhaps to put it best, what is real is sincere. You owe every waking moment your sincerity. Sincerity is the only defense against disinterest, despondency, and alienation, and often it means falling on your face.
From this day forth, you will be assaulted with different ideas about reality. We’ve been told that this generation, armed with only our tweets, texts, and Tumblrs, will be hapless in the fight against the real world. We’ve been told that this economy will defeat our generation. The economy, like the real world, is an abstraction. Don’t be defeated by facts and figures.
Perhaps today we should think less about adapting to the real world and more about adapting the real world to us. I’ve already seen you transform this world, Colby, according to your own rules, moral dictates of decency and respect. Through our four years here we have discovered our power to transform our reality. You see, when we arrived Colby was a blank canvas. Through four years we have taken that canvas and added texture, tone, shape, and form. The painting we created is a masterpiece of memory, or maybe it’s a Jackson Pollock painted with projectile vomit.
Today you stand at the edge of a warp in time and space, which will send you off to a new world. I have no doubt you will transform that world as you did this one. In your travels, remember that fame, reputation, and cool, are black holes. I urge you to avoid their orbits. I don’t know any better than you what your new world will be like. It will be at first unreal. My question to you, the Class of 2012, is what will you do to make it real?
Thank you, and congratulations.