Does President Barack Obama need a new commencement speech -- something that won't bore the brains out of the kids at those stuffy graduation ceremonies?
Obama stands accused of giving stuffy, cliche-ridden graduation speeches, the kind that cause students to zone out as they dream about where they'll party later.
So since Obama is from Chicago -- and a White Sox fan -- I hereby give him the rights to use my very own commencement speech.
It comes from Greece, from my family's ancestral village of Rizes, and is without a doubt the finest commencement speech of all time. I shared it in a column a few years ago, and today I'd like to offer it anew, as a gift to the president, because we can't have the leader of the Free World giving boring graduation speeches.
"The 40 Flies"
Yes, "The 40 Flies" is all yours, Mr. President.
And Michelle, too, because I hear her commencement speeches are just as bad. This one works for all audiences, from eighth-graders to college, and can be delivered by anyone who can read a teleprompter.
The idea came to me as I was reading an intriguing commencement story by RealClearPolitics White House correspondent Alexis Simendinger.
Simendinger pulled quotes from Obama's recent speech to graduates of Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis. And what boring quotes they were.
"I am confident about your futures," said Obama.
He also suggested, "Treat others as you would like to be treated."
And "Learn to be a better human being."
"ZZZZZzzzzzz," wrote Simendinger.
I am confident about your futures? Is he joking?
How can he be confident about their futures when he's trying to break the federal debt ceiling and borrow another trillion we don't have from China?
Trillions in debt isn't a future. It's servitude.
And that's where "The 40 Flies" comes in. These are real flies, not abstract flies. Politics and graduation ceremonies are abstract enough without idealized flies. So here's the story. Listen so you will see:
The son was a typical kid. The dad was a typical dad. They were very close and loved each other and were all but inseparable.
But then, like most parents and children, their relationship changed. It happened when the boy hit those challenging teenage years.
The father had warned his son. One day, he said, the boy would become as stubborn as a mule and as deaf as a post whenever the dad would speak, and things wouldn't change for years.
"Until then, I'll be absolutely stupid, embarrassing and boring," said the dad. "And the only time you'll even barely listen to what the heck I'm saying is when I'll hold the car keys in my hand."
"Dad, please!" cried the son. "That'll never happen."
But then, of course, we all know it happened. The father did indeed rapidly lose intelligence. He spoke so strangely that the son couldn't understand him, unless the father dangled the car keys.
And the boy had also changed. He didn't merely want to hang around and watch sports on TV with his dad. The boy wanted to "go out" all the time.
So one day the father figured it was time for a talk. Not one of those boring adult-young person talks, with stupid platitudes like "I am confident about your future." Only politicians who think they're speaking to morons can talk such nonsense.
The father didn't want his son to suffer from the mistakes he had made. And what the father wanted was to give a real talk, to protect his son.
They walked to a coffee house in the town square. It was a fine afternoon, warm, and they sat in the shade of a mulberry tree. The tables were empty and they were alone except for a stray dog sleeping in the sun.
After they ordered coffee, the father turned and told his son the real story of life. Not that fake Idealized Parent Biography, but the real story, with all the beautiful and all the ugly.
There were no lies in this, no half-truths. He refused to protect himself. This story involved the girls he'd lied to on summer nights and the girls who'd lied to him; how he'd been hurt by trusting the wrong people and how a hard crust formed around his heart by not trusting. He talked of money and time wasted and how to put your mark on the world.
And he talked of how hell can be a door locked from within.
He talked about all of it.
Finally, his story over, the father looked up, exhausted. The sun was setting over that mulberry tree. And he felt relieved, having given his hard-won armor to his son.
"And so my boy," asked the father, "what do you think? Will what I just told you help you avoid the same mistakes in your own life?"
"What?" said the son, "Just as you started talking, I was watching that dog over there across the way, the stray dog sleeping in the sun.
"And I counted 40 flies that landed on that dog's behind. That's right, 40 flies. You believe it? Exactly 40. One would fly away, another would land. Forty. Amazing, isn't it?
"Now, Dad, what was that stuff you were saying again? Dad?"
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.