It is that time of year when famous people put on baggy black capes and peculiar hats in order to hold forth on university lawns to thousands of students and their parents.
But this time something strange has happened. Each of the big-name speakers seems to have hit on the identical homily for their commencement addresses: they are all telling graduates to make the world a better place.
So there was Arianna Huffington at Smith College saying “what I urge you to do is not just take your place at the top of the world, but to change the world”.
阿里安娜•赫芬顿(Arianna Huffington)在史密斯学院(Smith College)表示：“我奉劝你们，不要只想着成为世界顶尖人物，还要改变这个世界。”
The actress Kerry Washington told students at her alma mater George Washington University (after telling them she loved them, twice): “The world needs your voice. Every single one of you.”
女演员凯丽•华盛顿(Kerry Washington)在其母校乔治•华盛顿大学(George Washington University)——在两次告诉学生她爱他们之后——表示：“世界需要你们的声音，需要你们中每个人的声音。”
And then this, from Jeff Immelt, head of General Electric, at the University of Connecticut: “Graduates should be optimistic; believe in better. The world awaits your leadership.”
还有这个，通用电气(General Electric)董事长杰夫•伊梅尔特(Jeff Immelt)在康涅狄格大学(University of Connecticut)讲道：“毕业生应该乐观，应该相信世界会变得更美好。世界在等待着你们的领导。”
Any student who has learnt anything at all in their time at university will be able to spot the hogwash. The world has 7bn voices to listen to already – it won’t be bothered about one more or less. Neither is it clear why graduates should be especially optimistic, especially at the moment. The world doesn’t await their leadership; only a tiny minority will get the chance to lead anything, apart, perhaps, from themselves.
Far better – and much snappier – advice was given by Stephen Colbert to students at the University of Virginia. The satirist started by ordering everyone to make sure their cell phones were turned on: “Take a moment to follow my Twitter feed in case I tweet anything during my speech.” I hope the graduates took heed: I felt chastened when I just watched it on YouTube.
斯蒂芬•科尔伯特(Stephen Colbert)在弗吉尼亚大学(University of Virginia)向学生们提出的建议就恰当得多，也时髦得多。这位讽刺演员一开场就嘱咐大家把手机都开着：“花点时间关注下我的推特(Twitter)账户，以免我在演讲期间发布任何推特消息。”我希望毕业生们听从了这一建议——我在YouTube上看这个演讲的视频时就感觉到受教了。
Alas, he then went and spoiled it all by telling the students to “choose the hard path that leads to the life and the world that you want”. But who says the hard path is a better bet than the easy one? And as to the world that we want – that isn’t on offer. So the trick for graduates is surely to make do with the world we have.
Only Barack Obama in his address at Morehouse College refrained from urging anyone to change the world. That may be because he feels the world is his prerogative. Or it may be because he alone knows how hard it is to change it – even if you happen to be the President of the United States. Not only has he failed to change the world, he can’t even get people to give up guns or fix the budget in his own country.
只有巴拉克•奥巴马(Barack Obama)在莫尔豪斯学院(Morehouse College)的演讲中没有鼓励任何人改变世界。这可能是因为他觉得世界是他的职权所在。抑或是因为他自己知道改变世界有多难——就算你碰巧是美国总统也是如此。他不仅没能改变世界，他甚至都没能让他的人民放下枪支，也没能解决他自己国家的预算问题。
Instead of aiming so impossibly high, the graduates of 2013 would do better to start a bit lower. When they leave their campuses it will not be “Hello world!” but “Hello again, Mum and Dad!”
This is the boomerang generation, and where most of them will be heading is straight back to their childhood bedrooms. What Ms Huffington, Mr Obama and Mr Immelt ought to have said was: change the world if you must, but it would be nice if you could help out by changing the bag in the vacuum cleaner first.
They should then have followed up with stern words on the virtue of hard work. This sort of thing has fallen sadly out of fashion.
When I had just graduated, my then boyfriend – who had been hired by investment bank Salomon Brothers – was instructed by the chief executive, John Gutfruend, to arrive every day “ready to bite the ass off of a bear”. The fact that I can remember his words three decades later is partly because I love the way Americans say “off of”, but it’s also because the advice was so good.
我刚毕业的时候，所罗门兄弟公司(Salomon Brothers)首席执行官约翰•古特弗洛恩德(John Gutfruend)告诉我当时的男朋友——那时他已被该投资银行聘用——每天上班要“准备摸老虎屁股(ready to bite the ass off of a bear)”。三十年后我还记得他的原话，这部分是因为我喜欢美国人说“off of”的方式，不过也是因为这条建议太棒了。
As well as changing their work ethic, graduates also need to change their employment status. They need jobs. What no one ever tells them in commencement addresses is that even a bad job is better than none at all.
I know a young graduate who has just been hired to hand out licences to taxi cabs in deepest south London. It’s dull, but it’s better than being unemployed, which is what she was before. Graduates should be told not to lose heart: as their working lives will last 50 or 60 years, a slow start is not a disaster.
Mr Obama urged the Morehouse students to strive to become finer people and said he was himself trying to be a better father and a better husband. For a minute I thought this was quite sweet. But if you are president you should never say such an irresponsible thing to people just starting out. They need to know the truth: that you can either do a big job and try to change the world, or you can be a good father and husband. Each on its own is quite tricky. But both at the same time? Can’t be done.