I had planned to pluck the occasional commencement speech and present them here during this graduation season, then I went and forgot to post up this one last weekend at Tulane by Ellen DeGeneres.
My favorite line in a speech of favorite lines: "Your definition of success will change as you get older."
Now then, does anyone remember anything from their commencement speaker? My college commencement speaker was Lee Remick, and I can't recall a thing she had to say.
(h/t: Gerry Tyrrell via Facebook)
Don't doo do do doom. You're going to be alright!
My commencement speaker was Famous Dave of barbecue restaurant fame. I don't remember what he said. I do remember he was too loud. The speaker system at Northrop couldn't handle his intensity.
I also remember that all I could think about while he talked was Chris Farley's motivational speaker on SNL...
I went to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois for undergrad (Go Fightin' Prairie Fire!), and they've had a string of really cool and impressive commencement speakers- John Podesta from the Clinton Administration the year after I left, then Bill Clinton, Steven Colbert, Barack Obama... this year they're having Patrick Fitzgerald and Garry Wills, who are both pretty amazing.
When I graduated, though, it was two retiring foreign service officers. After the ceremony, my whole family was giving me a hard time because they were so boring.
I graduated from UMD with a MAPL this last weekend, and I hate to admit it, but I've already forgotten the commencement speaker's name. My mom noted, though, that she was much more interesting than the speaker at my last graduation.
My commencement speaker was a federal judge who went on and on and on about nothing at all. But the commencement speaker in 1993, the year before I graduated from Oberlin College (I went to the ceremony, since many of my friends were graduating,) was none other than Allan Spear, former President of the Minnesota State Senate, and one of the first openly gay elected officials in America.
Spear was utterly absorbing, and while I can't remember any specific quotes from his speech (it's been a while,) I remember being shocked by his lack of cynicism after a long, tough career in politics, and inspired by his obvious zest for a lifelong commitment to learning and intellectual growth. I'm gay myself, so Spear could have been a role model for me merely by existing, but that day, he became for me a model of what an intelligent, compassionate adult should be.
I didnt go to my college graduation ceremonies, but I do remember the speech from high school graduation very well. The valedictorian gave a speech about how her job at the movie theater prepared her for things. It was a good speech on its own. But in particular, I remember that whenever she said the word "popcorn" half the student body threw (smuggled) popcorn into the air and yelled "POPCORN!!"
Yes, I still remember. Our speaker was an idiot. He continually equated "information" with "knowledge". Horrible speech but better than prior year when speaker was John Ashcroft, who was in the midst of the Missouri abortion controversy at the time. Horrible pick.
The year before I graduated, Victor Kiam (sp?) spoke, who explained that, by the nature of doing his company's commercials could say "I liked the Remington Shaver so much, I bought the company" in 9 languages. By attending that ceremony I learned to plan ahead for my own, so I brought a couple PBRs and a Business Week to while away the time. I don't recall who spoke, I think we were tag teamed by a husband and wife team who I'd never heard of.
Of many graduation ceremonies attended, both as graduate and as guest, I only remember one. That was so awful it leaves me with bad memories 35 years later.
Several years after a couple of college graduations, I came across a copy of C.S. Lewis’ “The Inner Ring”. It should be required reading for every high school and college graduate.
“… But your genuine Inner Ring exists for exclusion. There'd be no fun if there were no outsiders. The invisible line would have no meaning unless most people were on the wrong side of it. Exclusion is no accident: it is the essence.
The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain. And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product …” C.S. Lewis