Some words for the Class of ‘24


By Neil Offen

Dear soon-to-be college graduates,

Thank you for having chosen me to be your commencement speaker even though it was probably because Olivia Rodrigo was not available. I also want to thank you, in advance, for not checking your phone during my talk to see if you have gotten any new texts.

Although I am very grateful to be here today, I will not offer you simple platitudes like saying I am very grateful to be here today. Instead, I will offer you several more complicated platitudes that, I hope, will make you forget, if only briefly, that starting next month you will have to begin paying off your student loans with most of your beer money.

In other words, I am going to tell you the absolute truth about what to expect out there in the real world, where spring break is just that brief moment between when you stop freezing because of the cold and when you start sneezing and wheezing because of the pollen.

In fact, not only will you not have an actual spring break anymore, but in the future you will be lucky to get in an extended weekend in Myrtle Beach because you will only have two weeks of vacation the whole year and you will use most of it texting with people you are rooming with who are sitting across the table from you. And most likely, if you do get to Myrtle Beach, it will probably be during motorcycle week and you will never be able to hear anything again.

You are, to be sure, entering a world that is harsh and unforgiving and has very few parking spots. You may have to learn to parallel park because perpendicular just won’t cut it in the real world. That parking course you will have to take would be pass/fail, by the way, and won’t hurt your GPA.

In the real world, you will not get to choose your own schedule or wear pajamas to the office unless you work for Facebook or Google and can buy your own commencement speaker. 

In the real world, you won’t have a meal card and garlic fries and pizza will not be high on the food pyramid.

So, yes, the world is difficult out there, and we haven’t even mentioned that Oreos now come with chocolate cream in the middle and fig newtons can, yes, indeed, be raspberry-flavored.

But there are also great opportunities out there waiting for you. That’s why we call today commencement, in addition to the fact that if we called it “the end” you probably wouldn’t have come here today and would have gone sky diving instead.

Yet this is, in fact, the beginning of the period where you will be on your own, free to do whatever you choose to do as long as you make sure to call your parents every Sunday evening and find out if you’re still on their health insurance.

I hope, as you go forward in your life with this new-found freedom, that you will use it for good and not simply as a link you can tweet or a photo you can snap for your Instagram page.

The world is out there waiting for you, so try to remember not to be late because you had to check that new TikTok video just one last time.

Carrboro resident Neil Offen has been a humor columnist for four decades and on two continents. He is the author of “Building a Better Boomer,” available wherever books are sold.
This reporter can be reached at

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