David Carroll

High school graduations have gotten a lot of attention lately, because for the first time since 2019, most seniors will finally get to “walk” and accept their diploma while their families cheer.

For the past two years, many commencement programs were canceled. Instead, we honored the grads with yard signs, neighborhood parades and Facebook salutes.

I felt bad for them. They had worked hard for 12 years leading up to this big moment. I remember my moment.

That cafe-gym-atorium was hot, and the commencement program seemed to last forever. The guest speaker began sharing his “Rules for a Successful Life.”

He led off with honesty, kindness, and respect while giving detailed instructions on each. I figured, this isn't too bad. Maybe he'll stop at eight simple rules, and then we can go somewhere with a working AC.

Nope. He rambled on to No. 9. It was either persistence or perseverance, which is the same thing, right? Either way, I was sure he would stop at 10. That would make sense.

But he was just getting warmed up. In fact, I think determination was No. 11. As in, he was determined to make us pass out before he finished.

A dozen would have been a good stopping point, but he kept on going. Meanwhile, we were daydreaming about something more enjoyable, like patching a roof.

One of my classmates was pregnant when the guy started speaking. By the time he finally finished with Rule No. 25, her baby was teething.

Many years later, I was invited to be a graduation speaker. I promised the students I would keep it short.

“I just want to talk to you for ten minutes,” I said. So I told a story or two, offered some quick words of wisdom and got off the stage.

As the seniors walked up to get their diploma, I got a handshake and a smile from almost all of them. Except for one young lady who pointed at her watch. “Eleven minutes, and twenty seconds,” she said, emphasizing she would never get that time back.

Was I was insulted by that? Absolutely not. I felt like I had completed her education by sharing an important life lesson: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It also reminded me that no one ever left a graduation program and said, “That was nice, but you know, that speaker just didn’t talk long enough!”

What would I tell the Class of 2022? I can’t possibly tell them what kind of job market to expect. I’ve been in it for decades, and I don’t know what’s coming next week.

I figure that within a few years, many of them will be doing a job that hasn’t been invented yet. That’s both exciting and a little scary.

Think about these new buzzwords: Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency. Metaverse. NFT. We buy things with Wallet, but not the one we carry.

Our face is the new fingerprint. We couldn’t imagine such things a few years ago, and now some people are making big money from them. What will the new words be by 2027? By then, the words in this column will be so 2022.

I would tell them that money can come in handy, but it sure doesn’t bring you love or happiness. Watch the news and you’ll see a lot of angry millionaires every single day.

I would tell them that even in this age of texting and tweeting, eye contact is still the best way to communicate in matters of love, education and employment. Set aside a little time every day to put your device down. Look at people. Look in their eyes.

I would tell them when their doctor says to wear plenty of sunscreen, he’s not kidding. I hope they do a better job of following those instructions than I did.

I would tell them not to wait until your “Check Engine” light is on to schedule an oil change.

I would tell them not to marry someone just because they look good in jeans.

And I would tell them tattoos are best decided upon when sober.

Oh, and one more thing. I have faith in you.

David Carroll is a Chattanooga news anchor and his new book, “Hello Chattanooga: Famous People Who Have Visited the Tennessee Valley,” is available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com.  You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405, or at RadioTV2020@yahoo.com.