This is the transcript of the 2015 Graduation Speech for Counselor Education I didn’t give. Of course, I wasn’t invited to deliver a speech, but since I’m in Absarokee and can’t attend graduation, I’m pretending this is the speech I would have given. In other words, I’m making all this up.
Traditional graduation speeches are supposed to be lightly profound with a dose of inspiration. This one, not so much.
Seriously? Like you didn’t know this speech would be different?
Two years ago (or maybe three or four years ago for some of you who are extra special), you all enrolled in a graduate program in . . . COUNSELING. What I’m saying is that something in your rational brain snapped and you let an empathic, compassionate, impulse to help others for the rest of your life take over and start making your BIG life decisions for you. You know you did. And your family and friends know you did. I’m just naming the elephant in the room by saying it in public
I’m proud to say that I’m proud of you for that. And this is coming from someone who basically hates and avoids the word proud. That’s partly because pride is one of the seven deadly sins and it goeth before a fall and all that. I just thought you should know how hard it was for me to say that I’m proud of you . . . which makes me think in my head that I almost feel a little proud of myself, which I would never, of course, say out loud, which I’m not doing now because if there’s anything I’m certain of, I’m certain you can’t hear my thoughts.
What I am saying is that I’m glad you made the decision to forsake nearly all of the materialistic messages given to you, heretofore (I really like saying things like heretofore, especially during graduation speeches), by contemporary society. Just think, if everyone went down the evil road of materialism we wouldn’t even have graduate programs in counseling where people like you spend good money to learn how to listen well and help others, while not making very much bank. You know what I’m talking about.
My point is, you’re just DIFFERENT and unless your faculty forgot to tell you, you should know that by now. And my other point is: that’s why you should have known this would be YET ANOTHER LECTURE and not some sappy, emotionally inspiring speech. And the reason for this is that in the business you’ve chosen to practice . . . learning NEVER ENDS . . . and so I don’t want to give any of you the wrong impression that somehow graduating means you get to stop learning. You don’t. I’m here to tell you that.
This leads me to my lecture, the title of which is something like:
Everything I Should Have Taught You Over the Past Several Years,
But Because You All Talked Way Too Much In Class I Didn’t Have Time.
And I should mention that this lecture could take anywhere from a few minutes to several days. Please. There’s no need to thank me. You’ve earned this.
Let’s start with you taking notice of the imprecision I used in stating my lecture title. I said, “. . . something like.” This is our first and most important lesson for the day. When it comes to counseling humans, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking we can be precise. This is why you chose to study with us touchy-feely-counseling types over here in the College of Education instead of running over with your calculators to psychology where you could be a scientist (at this point in the speech I’m making an enigmatic face that makes you wonder if I’m praising psychology as a science or making fun of psychology for having lots of irrational cognitions about being a science). This is why you set collaborative goals in counseling and not unilateral goals.
As Salvadore Minuchin said a couple of decades ago at a workshop here in Missoula, “Don’t be too sure.” I like that message.
And now although I’m not too sure about whether what I’ve got planned next is a good idea, it’s something I feel compelled to teach you. After all, prior to this last year’s holiday party, when there was an opportunity for Karaoke and, in the humble way that you’ve come to know as characteristic of me, I sent you all an email explaining that I had co-invented Karaoke in 1973 in Mike Bevill’s basement and consequently was happy to provide everyone with Karaoke lessons, the response was COMPLETE EMAIL SILENCE. Consequently, how could I not conclude that either you (a) have debilitating Karaoke anxiety, or (b) have low Karaoke-esteem, or (c) are uninformed as to the benefits of Karaoke, or (d) all of the above, or (e) only a and b?
Hopefully you got the answer to that rhetorical question correct, because here comes the Karaoke lesson.
Before I start, as I like to say in my classes and workshops, you can always pass on this experience and if you so choose, please do so by doing what many of my teenage clients do – ignoring me – which may or may not involve you placing your hands over your ears and humming or laying your head on your arm and snoring.
The first rule of Karaoke is, as the late Bill Glasser would have said—had he ever had the good sense to lecture on Karaoke—“Your goal should be within your personal control.”
This rule has several implications, but most importantly, it speaks to song and wardrobe selection. Specifically, you always want to select a Karaoke song that’s within your range and within your wardrobe. I cannot emphasize this enough. For example, although I very much like the song . . . “This Girl is on Fire,” but I tried singing it and it didn’t go well.
As you can infer from the photo below, choosing the wrong song can be embarrassing and beyond your control. Don’t do it . . . unless it’s part of your shame- attacking treatment plan. And you can thank Dr. Albert Ellis for building you a personalized shame-attacking treatment plan.
So, obviously, pick a song that fits your voice and your gender stereotypes.
The second rule is all about song lyrics and so I’ve made up another rhyme to help you auditory learners remember. That is, “To function to the best of your ability, you should embrace your multicultural humility.”
What I’m saying here is that, as you know, many pop songs have lyrics that are racist, sexist, and sexually explicit. To maintain our multicultural sensitivity (and humility), it’s important to either (a) avoid songs with insensitive or sexualized lyrics (which is why I never sing Lady Gaga’s song that includes the line about her not bluffin’ with her muffin) or (b) change the lyrics on the spot (for “Say a Little Prayer for You” I like to substitute, “Do a little non-denominational mindfulness meditation for you.” It works fine, you just have to say the words very quickly) or (c) just mumble when the offending lyrics appear.
The third rule can also be captured with a nifty, easily memorized rhyme: “An alcoholic drink, will not help you think.” It also won’t improve your judgment or make you look more impressive to your audience. I hope what I’m saying here is clear. Just like when you’re providing professional counseling, when doing Karaoke, it’s best to be squeaky clean and sober. I should also add, contrary to popular belief, drinking alcohol will NOT MAKE YOU A BETTER DANCER. Although the caveat to this is that if OTHERS are drinking alcohol during your performance, it might make them THINK you’re a better dancer.
The corollary to this rule is that evidence-based Karaoke-ers use dancing to optimize their performance. This probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, “Be solution-focused and go with your strengths!” If your voice is bad or the lyrics are bad or you’re so nervous you’ve lost your ability to read, DANCE BIG. I did this a few years ago when I planned a rap to the Simon and Garfunkle tune “Feeling Groovy” and it quickly became obvious that the audience mostly wanted to watch my radical rapping dance moves and so I just went with that. The fact that no one at that party will talk to me anymore is irrelevant. I think it’s mostly because I intimidated the heck out of them and so they’re afraid to approach me now. I should note that this is a particular cognition that my counselor and I decided I shouldn’t test . . . so I’m just going with it. Here’s a photo of that performance. Apparently all the video recordings were lost or burned.
The fourth and final Karaoke rule is this: “A pill is not a skill . . . but Karaoke is a thrill.” What this means is that if you want to grow up to be a bad-ass Karaoke singer like me, then you have to practice, practice, and then practice some more . . . because as they say about counseling and counselors, all we ever do is practice.
There is no final performance.
There is no end to your learning.
And this is not my final goodbye to you.
I will be thinking of you all and wishing and hoping you the best success in whatever you choose to practice, knowing that I’ve had the excellent fortune and gift of time with you and that I’ve come to believe deeply in your ability, skill, compassion, and character.
One time when I was working with a dad and his son in counseling, the dad got right in his son’s face and delivered him a message that he would never forget. And so I want to end by sharing that message with you in hopes that you will hear it over-and-over in your brain:
“I will always be proud of you.”
Thanks for listening. Thanks for reading. Thanks for watching.
And thanks for being different.
P.S. I’m available for Karaoke tutoring and supervision and I can show you some hand movements, that, in particular, will blow your mind and insure an unforgettable Karaoke experience.
5 thoughts on “The 2015 Counselor Education Graduation Speech I Didn’t Give”
Having been retired for a while, I am a very good Karaoke singer…in my dreams. However, Gary retired yesterday, so I think when you come back to Missoula, I’ll bug him to call you and set up lessons.
We are, of course, thinking about both of you. Gary thanked Rita at his retirement lunch at the honors college for rescuing him from the fate of working on your basement, and other basements to come, by giving him the chance to teach forgiveness and reconciliation. I’m not sure the other faculty knew how to respond to that, but he meant it.
Love to you both,
Haha Joyce. You should know, especially you, that you can and should turn certain dreams into reality. Just let me know how I can help:). Thanks to Gary for giving Rita some props. It’s nice that only a few of us would get the joke. What an amazing job he did. Love right back to you, John
Hi Dr. Sommers- Flanagan,
It was great meeting you today. It was a breath of fresh air (like mint fresh, not “who just ripped one” fresh) to talk with someone who counsels “tough” children the same way you do. The techniques that you use are a great resource, especially for school counselors. Thanks again for allowing me the opportunity to be apart of your “Great Teachers, Great Courses” project! 😊
It was an honor to meet you and your cohort yesterday. I wish you all the best in your work and found your ideas about how to talk with and counsel youth to be refreshing and it gives me hope that there are more like you out there doing this important work and doing it very well! And thanks for posting our selfie:). All my best, John SF
Reblogged this on John Sommers-Flanagan and commented:
Reposting this in honor of today’s 2017 University of Montana graduation, where they still don’t let me make speeches.