Tis the season for graduation and going out into the world.  I recall Bob Hope’s warning to his son’s graduating class at Georgetown University.  Hope said, “My advice to those of you about to go out into the world, don’t go!”   Hope’s advice is even more appropriate now given the lackluster picture for newly minted college grads.

What to say in this somber atmosphere?  I gave an commencement address once.  I spoke to the graduating class of Schiller International College in Madrid, Spain in 1985 while I was the Commercial Attache at our embassy there.  It was a totally impromptu speech. 

I was at the school’s graduation dinner because of my work with its students, essentially I signed a contract with the school to use its students in our trade promotions.  The students gained hands on experience and I gained some enthusiastic event assistants who manned our booths and provided other support.   I recall at least three students who later told me that the recommendations I gave them based on their work for me got them jobs on graduation. 

So here I was at the dinner assuming my invitation was in recognition of our mutual good fortune.  But then the president of the school speaking before the meal said that a special guest would be giving the after dinner commencement address - me!  I spent the entire dinner frantically scribbling a speech on paper napkins. 

I gave my address and was pleased to hear at least one of  the professors tell me that it had great impact on the graduates.  He said he had not seen them taking as many notes in his classes as they did during my speech. 

And what did I say?  I urged them to not confine their search for gainful employment to finding a job but to also consider going into business for themselves, which was quite suitable since they were all graduating in business.  But another professor told me that the most remarkable advice I gave was to refer to the old British rule for success in business, “Buy cheap, sell dear.” 

Over the ensuing years I have heard from several of the students and still see one of their professors when in Madrid.   They always remind me of my address and advice.  Perhaps in today’s uncertain world commencement speakers should wait until the last moment to compose what they want to say.  In a constantly changing and challenging economy, maybe the best advice comes on the fly.