As Charles noted earlier this morning, the Seattle Times wrote a gloomy article about novelist David Guterson's reportedly gloomy speech at Roosevelt High School's graduation. Parents and a student booed and heckled the author for dishing out less-than-candy-coated themes that included death, the struggle to find happiness, and pushing through to accomplish your life's goals.
It seems like the threshold to adulthood is an appropriate place to hear that message (even if it's not the message they expected). But some folks in the audience "tried to cut his speech short by clapping before he was done," reporter Linda Shaw writes. “He referenced marijuana use for one," one senior said. "He talked a lot about his death. ... Something along the lines of metaphorical death. About dying inside.”
Here's the thing. If you invite someone to speak, you invite THEM to speak. You invite them to say what THEY think needs to be said, not necessarily to deliver a cotton-candy commencement. If you want a cookie-cutter speech—a speech that's totally predictable pablum—then just play a video or give an actor a script. Otherwise, shut up and swallow the interesting, weird, salty meal they feed you. You asked them to cook, right? Unless it truly is shit—bigoted, deliberately hurtful, mean—be polite and eat it. The people who fucked up, and the people who owe an apology, are the parents who acted like children and wanted their students coddled like babies.