Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Are graduation speeches the future?

Every time I read about celebrity graduation speakers, or celebrity graduation speakers being thwarted by the librul agender, I ask myself, "What schools are these?"

I graduated three times, and I couldn't tell you who any of the speakers were. I'm pretty sure all three were in-house or lived next door to the house, and the speeches were see-before-me-the-future boilerplate. (The graduation the semester after my bachelor's graduation had a fundraising video in lieu of a speech — specifically how a few rich guys had given back — so I dodged that at least.)

The speech I remember the most is the one given at the Spring 2006 Louisiana commencement, where the speaker urged every graduate who could to live abroad for awhile. That's as edgy as UL ever got. And I still don't recall who he was.

So there's that part of me who's jealous whenever I hear about someone famous giving a speech. That's got to be a thrill. But then I wonder, would that actually be worse? 

Schools always take a risk in those cases, because public figures can be divisive. Politicians are inherently polarizing and might have half the grads facing away in protest, if not sparking outright heckling. That's not in the spirit of a commencement. Even where I like the idea, such as with Seth MacFarlane, I see how it could be excruciating if you don't get his references. 

A better question might be, should graduations even have speakers anymore? Are they seen as anything but a cliched formality with no particular upside? If those downbeat and smug pseudo-speeches trendily popping up online lately are any indicator, maybe graduations should become walk-and-roll. I'm all for honest, noncliched presentations, but some of those are just brutal. 

Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine commencement speeches vanishing entirely, and I think in practice people would miss them. I hope they stick around at least long enough for the millennials to eventually deliver them. They'll have something wise to say, no doubt.

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