Commencement speeches were invented largely in the belief that outgoing students should never be released into the world until they have been properly sedated.
Now that Staples High School and the area's private schools have handed out diplomas, hundreds of Westport students are closing the book on adolescence and beginning new chapters as young adults.
For most, that will be college -- four years of rigorous study, rigorous partying and, one would hope, exploration, self-discovery and maturity.
If you are among this year's Westport graduates and haven't yet gotten quite enough advice -- or the right advice -- here are 10 tips for negotiating your first year in college:
1. Do five new things in the next year that would surprise your high school friends. This is the time for discovery, for learning what you like and what you don't like. Try a new activity, go to a performance, take a course that offers a completely new experience.
2. Ask questions. Don't be afraid to expose what you don't know of any topic or issue -- in or out of class. The most dangerous people are those who've stopped asking questions because they think they have all the answers.
3. Control your impulses. Sudden freedom is intoxicating -- go where you want, do what you want when you want. But with freedom comes responsibility. Before acting impulsively, take a moment to consider the risk and the consequences.
4. Help others. Whether tutoring someone in your dorm or joining an on-campus service group, carry on your hometown's traditions of generosity, community service and compassion.
5. Join at least one club, organized activity or team. It's a sure way to meet people with whom you share an interest and learn from older students who know the ropes.
6. Without risking your safety, do something that scares you. Whether it's public speaking, auditioning for a play, supervised rock climbing -- or simply developing social skills -- confront a fear and try to work through it. Success for the rest of your life will be about overcoming obstacles.
7. Accept that life isn't always fair. Some people cheat. Some people lie. Some people in authority are corrupt. Get over it, and always take the high road.
8. Exercise regularly. If you've been an athlete but will no longer compete, don't go cold turkey; join an intramural team. If you've never worked out, now's your chance -- you'll have a class schedule that allows time. Beware the "freshman 15."
9. Make learning to think clearly and solve problems your primary goal. No matter your field of study, the ability to accurately analyze information and solve problems is what drives real-world success.
10. Measure success not by what you get, but by what you give. How you improve the lives of others -- whether for a moment or a lifetime -- is the greatest yardstick.