It's Graduation Season, and that means it's time for commencement speeches.
Usually delivered by someone you at best only vaguely have heard of, they all start with rueful self-deprecation about how "Once, long, long ago, I too sat at a graduation ceremony and listened to some long-winded boring speaker. So I won't do the same to you."
Forty-five minutes of mind-numbing pabulum later, you're done. If you're lucky.
We're betting nothing you hear will be better than these five commencement speeches.
"You're about to enter into a world filled with hypocrisy and doublespeak, a world in which your limo to the airport is often a half-hour late. In addition to not even being a limo at all; often times it's a Lincoln Town Car. You're about to enter a world where you ask your new assistant, Jamie, to bring you a tall, non-fat latte. And he comes back with a short soy cappuccino. Guess what, Jamie? You're fired. Not too hard to get right, my friend."
"And when you enter the workforce, you will find competition from those crossing our all-too-porous borders. Now I know you're all going to say, 'Stephen, Stephen, immigrants built America.' Yes, but here's the thing -- it's built now. I think it was finished in the mid-`70s sometime. At this point it's a touch-up and repair job."
"What else can you expect? Let me see, by your applause, who here wrote a thesis. (APPLAUSE) A lot of hard work, a lot of your blood went into that thesis... and no one is ever going to care.
"I wrote a thesis: Literary Progeria in the works of Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner. Let's just say that, during my discussions with Pauly Shore, it doesn't come up much. For three years after graduation I kept my thesis in the glove compartment of my car so I could show it to a policeman in case I was pulled over. 'License, registration, Cultural Exploration of the Man Child in the Sound and the Fury...' "
Jon Stewart, William & Mary 2004
(Note: The original is apparently unavailable on the web, so here's a heavily accented young man delivering it.)
"Lets talk about the real world for a moment. We had been discussing it earlier, and I...I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is I guess as good a time as any. I don't really know to put this, so I'll be blunt. We broke it.
Please don't be mad.
"I know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry.
I don't know if you've been following the news lately, but it just kinda got away from us. Somewhere between the gold rush of easy internet profits and an arrogant sense of endless empire, we heard kind of a pinging noise, and uh, then the damn thing just died on us. So I apologize."
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John F. Kennedy, American University 1963
(If you're not looking for laughs, maybe you'll settle for timeless thoughts on world peace and how to achieve it.)
"No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. .... So, let us not be blind to our differences -- but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.
"For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."