Neil Offen

Neil Offen: The speech you’ve been waiting for

Graduates, parents, in-laws, step-parents, former step-parents, first wives, second husbands, crazy uncles, exes, soon-to-be exes and friends:

As your commencement speaker, I must first apologize that I am not Beyoncé. I know you were hoping for a big name like her, expecting her, but as you all know, Beyoncé is already expecting. Nevertheless, I am so honored to be your second choice even if I actually am not.

Looking out at all of you today, I am reminded that some years ago I was sitting in those very same seats that you are in now. I, too, was there expecting Beyoncé, 27 years before she was born. That’s the kind of foresight you can get from a university education.

This is such a proud moment for all of you, so full of hope, mainly because you are blissfully unaware that you’ll be paying off your student loans for the next four decades. But I am here to tell you that this moment full of hope is also a moment full of responsibility. It is full of obligation. Full of anticipation. It is, in fact, full of it.

That’s because your generation is confronting a world far different than the one I knew so many years ago. My world didn’t have kimchi. None of us could pronounce quinoa. We thought face time was time you devoted to shaving. We had just started learning how to use air quotes ironically. Our lives were not yet fully documented on Instagram, which meant, as you know, that we didn’t exist.

Your world, by contrast, is a technological marvel, even if your parents can’t figure out how to Skype and still have old VHS tapes around the house. Now, as you head out into that new world, I should warn you that the traffic there is terrible. Not only that, there’s almost no place to park.

Yes, the world is getting hotter, the seas are rising and some people may take several minutes before they reply to your texts. The job market is terrible, and the only position currently available is doing public relations at United Airlines. Even worse, no matter how frequently you check all your social media, you will find out that there are many parties to which you haven’t been invited.

So your generation definitely has its challenges but I am certain you have the skills and the passion to make a difference or at least get reasonably priced passes to Coachella. Always believe that you can reach your goals and do whatever you want to do, as long as no one is watching and you remember not to post it on your Facebook page.

In the years to come, I have no doubt you will all be successful and one day one of you may even be up here like I am, giving the same type of commencement speech. If you do, please remember to credit me or I might sue.

Neil Offen can be reached at Past columns can be found at