For years, I thought that commencement was synonymous with the end. After all, commencement occurred at the end of a segment of schooling. When high school ended, you went to commencement exercises. When college ended, you had commencement ceremonies. I am certain that on the English section of my SATs, I answered the question “Orientation is to beginning as Commencement is to…” with letter B for “Ending”.
I was wrong. Commencement apparently marks the beginning, and for thousands of college students this month, commencement marks the beginning of being pandered to by politicians of all stripes. The old guard, the young guns, the senior statesmen and the radical revisionists all line up to receive their phony honorary degrees and troll for votes from that part of the voting age population least likely to actually pull the lever. They might be better served speaking to a class of 3rd graders during career day for all the votes they’ll earn, but college commencement speeches do offer free media coverage and the chance to pretend to be smart, if only for a few hours.
Here are some of my favorite excerpts from recent commencement addresses (plucked from my vivid imagination):
“In conclusion, graduates, I offer you the best advice my daddy ever gave to me – stay in school, Rick. You need it.” – Gov. Rick Perry, addressing the graduates of Texas Christian University
“You snobs.” – Despondent Rick Santorum, addressing the graduates of West Point
“Do you know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?” – Carnival barker Sarah Palin, addressing the graduates of Franklin Pierce Day School
“OMG.” – Presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, addressing the graduates of Liberty University
“I would like to apologize to you on behalf of the United States for the miserable Bush economy that makes your post-graduation job prospects so dim.” – President Barack Obama, addressing the graduates of Soros Community College
“I learned on the campaign trail a valuable lesson that you graduates already know – never drop out if you want to succeed.” – Living fossil Ron Paul, addressing his immediate family at their annual reunion picnic and potato sack race
“I would like to thank you for this honorary degree. I hope I earned it. I’ll be coming back down this way again as often as possible, at least until Hillary is off the road.” – Player Bill Clinton, addressing the graduates of Beaver College
“Is it getting warm in here?” – Media mogul Al Gore, addressing the graduates of Cal Tech
“Never stop working hard, or else some overqualified 10 year old with a scrub brush will take your job, you lazy rabble.” – Historian Newt Gingrich, addressing graduates at NYU
“Congratulations, graduates. You should never be ashamed of your Harvard education, and you should affix it as a badge of prestige on every job application you ever complete.” – Mitt Romney, addressing the graduates of Yale
“I fondly remember my college years at Delaware, and my only regret was that I never lost the Freshman 150 I gained after a few too many helpings of those delicious cheesy spinach squares in the Russell Dining Hall. I am such a numb nuts.” – Gov. Chris Christie, addressing graduates at his alma mater, the University of Delaware
“Hey, did I ever tell you the story of that toga party at Lane Hall my Junior year? Caesar had nothing on me. Epic!” – Vice President Joe Biden, addressing the graduates of Scranton College of Liberal Arts and Administration
“If you take one thing away from this address, remember – 9-9-9. Multiplied together, that represents the 729 months that it will take to complete your student loan repayment.” – Herman Cain, addressing the graduates of MIT
"Make no mistake about it, you are dumb. You’re a group of incredibly well-educated dumb people. I was there. We all were there. You’re barely functional. There are some screw-ups headed your way. I wish I could tell you that there was a trick to avoiding the screw-ups, but the screw-ups, they’re a-coming for ya. It’s a combination of life being unpredictable, and you being super dumb." – Screen writer Aaron Sorkin, addressing the graduates of Syracuse University (OK, this one is real. I hope the grads were listening.)
After reviewing these, I think commencement means the beginning of the end.