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Observer Viewpoint | Monday, April 21, 2008

Dear Graduating Business Majors,

It has been a long four years for all of you. Graduation approaches, and I know this light at the end of the tunnel means a relief from ages of toil and struggles. It’s not easy to wake up at noon, skip two classes, visit the LaFortune cluster and grab six chairs around one computer to work on a group PowerPoint presentation, then still get out of there in time to visit Noma. I applaud you for your hard work and congratulate you on surviving.

But this letter is not a laudatory paean praising your prestigious efforts. No, I write you today, Minions of Mendoza, with a need far more pressing and urgent. The impending graduation may signify to you but a stepping-stone on the way to a promising future – a destiny of upward mobility, 401(k)’s, and financial prosperity shining brighter than a newly polished class ring. Yet for some of your less fortunate classmates, next month’s celebration of Notre Dame’s 163rd Commencement exercises signals not the start of success, but the dawn of destitution.

I speak on behalf of the great mass of the tired, the poor, the huddled masses of the College of Arts and Letters. You see, kind business majors, students like myself are not prepared for the modern globalized economy. We lack marketable entrepreneurial skills, such as making slideshows and balancing our checkbooks. While you lounge on leather thrones and feast on succulent grapes like Roman senators, we face the prospect of homelessness next year.

For us, there are no chairs being kept warm at Goldman Sachs or Berkshire Hathaway. There are no five-thousand dollar signing bonuses for joining PricewaterhouseCoopers. There are no dynamic opportunities for energetic, synergetic, motivated young people to put their summer internship experience (of which we have none) to use at Procter & Gamble.

Instead, we have our parents’ couches and houses in the projects. We have excluded healthcare coverage, a shrinking job market, and a monthly stipend on which to support ourselves. We have freeganism and rusty bikes and buying used clothes.

This is where you come in, business majors. You see, the majority of you are going to be making ridiculous, scandalous, obscene amounts of money within a year. You will buy new cars and take ski trips to Aspen and donate to our University to be entered in the football ticket lottery. I write to ask a very simple thing of you today: share the wealth.

Imagine the following scenario: the scene is one year from today. You, Sally Mendoza, park your car outside the elegant new downtown restaurant. It has been a long day at the offices of Consulters International, getting paid lots of money to tell people at other companies how to spend their money, but you are looking forward to the meal. You are meeting up with several fellow Domers who were in your marketing class and now live near you in the Chicago suburbs.

On the way into the restaurant, you hear a rustling from the alleyway next to the main entrance. The sound startles you, but you shake it off. You were listening to Bon Jovi on your iPhone anyway, and you couldn’t hear clearly.

But upon leaving the restaurant some time later an even louder noise disturbs you. You carefully peek around the corner of the restaurant, seeing there a plain white dumpster. You start to turn away but then freeze as a shadowy figure emerges from the rubbish. A scream catches in your throat and you can only stare in shock and horror at the disheveled man crawling out of the dumpster

Then recognition begins to dawn. The unkempt figure, bent under the weight of a bindle and clutching a half-eaten banana, resembles somebody from your college days. Suddenly, you realize the rabid-eyed, frizzy-haired hobo standing before you is Joe Humanities, that one guy who lived next door to you in Turtle Creek and graduated with a degree in Philosophy and Peace Studies. He took a position with AmeriCorps in the city and was never heard from again.

Approaching you with a limp, he speaks with a raspy inflection. “Hello, Sally”. Those two words are enough. You scream and run down the street to your double-parked Lexus.

If this scene frightens you, well, it should. The solution? Give. There are hundreds of Joe Humanities preparing to leave college and enter a world of indigence next year. You business majors, with your investment portfolios and knowledge of upward revenue stream dynamics, hold the power to give them another chance. I implore you to donate to their cause. Set up a trust fund, establish a grant program for graduating Arts & Letters students, or just buy them lunch at the Huddle.

Graduating business majors, the need is tremendous, but so are your bank accounts. Somewhere out there, a liberal arts student is crouched in the fetal position, frightened to death of the future. You can lift that student out of despondency and show him the happy side of American capitalism. Don’t wait another minute – give today.

James Dechant is willing to accept any donations, whether out of pity, malice, spite, or generosity. He maintains a “blog” at www.creedthoughts.gov.wwwcreedthoughts and can be contacted at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.