.44 Magnum Cum Laude

Excerpts from Clint Eastwood's commencement speech

Thank you. You have honored me by inviting me to be your commencement speaker today. So I promise to shoot straight with you as I share a few hard-earned lessons about the good, the bad and the ugly.

Tomorrow is promised to no one. And nothing can truly prepare you for the sudden impact of life after college. Out there – in the line of fire – you’ll face a gauntlet of challenges, yellow-bellied sidewinders and grimy armed gunmen. Not to mention extreme prejudice. …

It’s the Wild West out there. And before you know it, I’m gonna be wrapping up this speech and yelling at you smartasses to get off my lawn. Pampered million-dollar babies with your pretty little caps and gowns, and your fancy college diplomas.

You probably figure you’ve earned the right to belly up to the bar and tell the man, “Whiskey.” Well that's just fine, but you better sober up quick because it’s time to get out there and make something out of yourselves. Just try not to sell your soul for a fistful of dollars, or mortgage your dreams for a few dollars more.

And remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. Because if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is. …

In a perfect world, you’d all get good jobs and five or six shots at the American dream. But those days are gone. Nowadays, everybody’s gotta scrape together a living any which way you can.

Yes, the world is a violent place and life can be unforgiving. Unfortunately I speak from experience when I say: It’s a hell of a thing killing a man. You take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.

That's why it doesn’t hurt to show a little compassion now and then. For example, if you find yourself tempted to say somebody “had it coming,” just remember this. We all have it coming, kid. …

There are outlaws in positions of power, the economy’s still shot to hell and there are no guarantees save for a pine box at the end. Today, life is more about magnum force than magnum cum laude.

And so, members of the Class of 2015, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Are you feeling lucky, punks?

John Breneman