The Graduation Speech (I Wish I Had Given) – Part 1

By July 7th, 2014

Another National Book Award (Among University Presses) for Borgen’s The Relevance of Reason – Blog Essay – “Just When the Skies Turned Black and the Wind Started to Howl – The Graduation Speech (I Wish I Had Given)”

by Mack W. Borgen

Blog No. 43 News Release

Borgen’s Second Book Wins Another National Award

             In a surprise honor and competing with over 1,500 books from hundreds of university presses and independent publishers, it was announced at the American Library Association Convention in Las Vegas that Mack W. Borgen’s second book, The Relevance of Reason – The Hard Facts and Real Data About the State of Current America – Society and Culture, won the Bronze Award for third place in the Popular Culture category of ForeWord Reviews’ 2013 IndieFab Book of the Year Awards..

 This is the fourth national book award received by Borgen’s The Relevance of Reason books.

  Set Forth Below Is Part 1 of My Latest Essay Entitled

“Just When the Sky Turned Black and the Wind Started To Howl –

The Graduation Speech (I Wish I Had Given)”

Parts II and III will be posted over the next thirty days.


If you enjoy this essay, please link, post, recommend or reference this blog TO YOUR FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES AND ON OR VIA YOUR FACEBOOK, TWITTER OR OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS. 


Just When the Sky Turned Black

And The Wind Started To Howl –

The Graduation Speech (I Wish I Had Given)

 Part 1


Mack W. Borgen

Copyright @ 2014. Mack W. Borgen. All Rights Reserved. No part of this writing shall be reprinted without the prior written consent of the author and Brody & Schmitt Publishers.

 Background of Essay

                 This essay was written many years after I delivered one of the two student commencement addresses at my graduation from the University of California at Berkeley. I had moved from the Midwest to the West to go to college. I did well and after four years I graduated cum laude in economics. With my commencement address, I tried, without success, to speak both to and for our large and unruly class. On that inappropriately beautiful June day, with the acrid small of tear gas still lingering over the campus, I stood at the podium and delivered my address. I said my piece; I shared my thoughts; I shook some hands; I hugged my parents; I high-fived my classmates. And college was over. Looking back, many years later now, I can still sometimes see myself, standing there – silly in my certainties. However, it was also many years later that I came to appreciate the Graduation Speech (I Wish I Had Given), but a slightly longer preface is needed.

Writers compete. Fiercely. The truth is that we don’t much like each other. Late at night (and when no one’s watching) we’ll read each other’s books. We’ll close down coffee houses and wine bars in order to keep up appearances, but basically: Writers compete.

We compete in the constant fear that we may have little to add to the chit-chat of the day. We compete in the constant fear that there are no great stories left. Over 3,000,000 books were published in the United States in 2011, but that has more to do with the accessibility of independent publishing than the number of serious writers or the quality of the material. Delete how-to books and travel journals, cookbooks and diet programs, parenting and self-help works, survivalist tomes and doomsday warnings, political diatribes, hit books, and “inside stories,” and there were only a couple of thousand serious books worth the ink. In fact, a lot of writers have given up. They just sit around, read headlines, and wait for Charley Sheen, Lindsay Lohan or Balloon Boy — our modern-day Buttafuccos — to do something dumb again. Even Hollywood has left the library. Excepting a few films like Spielberg’s Lincoln, it usually turns to the safety of the Duracell formulas – the action heroes of the 1950s and clever animations of Pixar. On a slow day, it will turn to history or the news, but in the 1990s about half the nonfiction books written were titled Tom, Dick and Harry: The Inside Story.” In the 2000s the titles were a bit different – “Goldman Sachs Iraq Morgan Stanley Halliburton Wall Street Trash – The Inside Story.” – a tragic story with a strangely repetitious plot line with oftentimes the same creeps and characters and. Thus, amidst all of the flat plotlines of Hollywood and all of the reality trash on television, it’s hard finding a truly new story with both quality and creativity – Forrest Gump, The Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire being among the deserved exceptions.

Centuries ago, writers hated Shakespeare for being a pig and finishing off all the great romantic themes. Then, Robert Louis Stevenson took all of the adventure and pirates stuff, and Gene Rodenberry ripped off outer space.

Michener, Inc. and his gaggle of corporate staff writers scarfed up the geographical themes. Zane Gray polished off most of the Western stories long before Telluride got condos and Dodge City got a Tastee-Freeze. Edgar Allan Poe and, a hundred years later, Stephen King cornered the creepy market. Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn wrote all of the great wretched-soul novels, and whatever “Deep Thoughts” were left out there were caricatured on Saturday Night Live.

The twisted wit of H.L. Mencken and Dorothy Parker moved satire beyond the reach of the rest of us and left the late Art Buchwald and then George Will and a thousand lesser-knowns to play with their weekly columns. We are now left (or I guess “far right”) with Coulter and Beck.

But certainly a little peace can be found in just enjoying the brilliant writing of J.K. Rowling, and a different kind of comfort can be found in knowing that John Grisham is eventually going to run out of words and that Sue Grafton is going to run out the alphabet long before they run out of life — even though both are also going to ride some sweet and well-earned royalties for decades to come. Many think that Studs Terkel wasn’t such a great writer, but I think otherwise — and he had one of the great names. The one-book-only awards have to go to Harper Lee (To Kill and Mockingbird) and Margaret Mitchell (Gone With the Wind), but it was poor Richard Farina, who also only wrote one novel, who took with him the best title (Been Down So Long, It Looks Up To Me) when he and his Harley tragically went over a cliff on the way to his own publication party

J.D. Salinger and Joseph Heller were class acts. They just stopped by, wrote their piece, and left town. But New York was still publishing Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal — god bless them — for years despite the fact that neither of them had written a decent lead-line since the 1960’s. Hemingway did more with simple sentences than anyone I’ve ever read, but some think he just lost all of his complex thoughts in the Pamplona bars — one drink at a time.

So what’s going on? What’s left? We crawl around computer screens mining for verbs and while trying to scratch out a “new” story, but it’s Fifty Shades of Gray, Lean In, The 17-Day Diet, and Who Moved My Cheese? which land on the bestseller list. We writers beg for press and publication, but instead the Octomom and Snookie get more air time than the tragedy of Syria or our troops in Afghanistan and Kim Kardashian makes 18 million dollars on her 72-hour marriage with Kris Humphries. It is impossible to track the absurditiness (and no, that is not a word – but it should be) of our society’s obsession with all things celebrity. But it has gotten worse in the last couple of decades — maybe as far back as 1995 when that Los Angeles prostitute got paid $156,000 for telling about her ride on High Grant’s lap. Life is just tough to figure out, and we’ll never know.

But then, just when the sky has turned black and the winds have started to howl; just when logic has left the realm and the candle has burned low; along comes something new. Along comes something so clean and so unpretentious that it can’t be resisted. Along comes something that has been written quietly and just set out there for us to think about. Such a piece came along recently.



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