If you haven’t seen these speeches, you should. And I would advise you listen to them more than once. I have.
Not only do these 3 comedians share some of their “best stuff,” but I’d argue #2 gives you her “best stuff” which isn’t necessarily the most humorous. I was touched by her “real advice” which are words you should truly listen to.
With that said and for all the unfortunate graduates who won’t have the opportunity to listen to a great speaker this year as a result of Covid-19, these are in your honor:
#3: Conan O’ Brien’s Dartmouth College Graduation Address – 2011
I’ve been living in Los Angeles for two years, and I’ve never been this cold in my life.
I will pay anyone here $300 for GORE-TEX gloves. Anybody? I’m serious. I have the cash.
Before I begin, I must point out that behind me sits a highly admired President of the United States and decorated war hero while I, a cable television talk show host, has been chosen to stand here and impart wisdom.
I pray I never witness a more damning example of what is wrong with America today.
Graduates, faculty, parents, relatives, undergraduates, and old people that just come to these things: Good morning and congratulations to the Dartmouth Class of 2011.
Today, you have achieved something special, something only 92% of Americans your age will ever know: a college diploma. That’s right, with your college diploma you now have a crushing advantage over 8% of the workforce.
I’m talking about dropout losers like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. Incidentally, speaking of Mr. Zuckerberg, only at Harvard would someone have to invent a massive social network just to talk with someone in the next room.
LIFE IS NOT FAIR
My first job as your commencement speaker is to illustrate that life is not fair. For example, you have worked tirelessly for four years to earn the diploma you’ll be receiving this weekend.
That was great.
And Dartmouth is giving me the same degree for interviewing the fourth lead in Twilight. Deal with it.
Another example that life is not fair: if it does rain, the powerful rich people on stage get the tent. Deal with it.
I would like to thank President Kim for inviting me here today. After my phone call with President Kim, I decided to find out a little bit about the man.
He goes by President Kim and Dr. Kim. To his friends, he’s Jim Kim, J to the K, Special K, JK Rowling, the Just Kidding Kimster, and most puzzling, “Stinky Pete.”
He served as the chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, spearheaded a task force for the World Health Organization on Global Health Initiatives, won a MacArthur Genius Grant, and was one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2006.
Good God, man, what the hell are you compensating for?
Seriously. We get it. You’re smart.
By the way Dr. Kim, you were brought to Dartmouth to lead, and as a world-class anthropologist, you were also hired to figure out why each of these graduating students ran around a bonfire 111 times.
But I thank you for inviting me here, Stinky Pete, and it is an honor. Though some of you may see me as a celebrity, you should know that I once sat where you sit.
Literally. Late last night I snuck out here and sat in every seat. I did it to prove a point: I am not bright and I have a lot of free time.
But this is a wonderful occasion and it is great to be here in New Hampshire, where I am getting an honorary degree and all the legal fireworks I can fit in the trunk of my car.
You know, New Hampshire is such a special place. When I arrived, I took a deep breath of this crisp New England air and thought, “Wow, I’m in the state that’s next to the state where Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is made.”
But don’t get me wrong, I take my task today very seriously.
When I got the call two months ago to be your speaker, I decided to prepare with the same intensity many of you have devoted to an important term paper. So late last night, I began.
I drank two cans of Red Bull, snorted some Adderall, played a few hours of Call of Duty, and then opened my browser.
I think Wikipedia put it best when they said “Dartmouth College is a private Ivy League University in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States.”
Thank you and good luck.
To communicate with you students today, I have gone to great lengths to become well-versed in your unique linguistic patterns. In fact, just this morning I left Baker Berry with my tripee Barry to eat a Billy Bob at the Bema when my flitz to Francesca was Blitz jacked by some d-bag on his FSP.
Yes, I’ve done my research. This college was named after the Second Earl of Dartmouth, a good friend of the Third Earl of UC Santa Cruz and the Duke of the Barbizon School of Beauty.
Your school motto is “Vox clamantis in deserto,” which means “Voice crying out in the wilderness.”
This is easily the most pathetic school motto I have ever heard.
Apparently, it narrowly beat out “Silently Weeping in Thick Shrub” and “Whimpering in Moist Leaves without Pants.”
Your school color is green, and this color was chosen by Frederick Mather in 1867 because, and this is true– I looked it up — it was the only color that had not been taken already.” I cannot remember hearing anything so sad.
Dartmouth, you have an inferiority complex, and you should not. You have graduated more great fictitious Americans than any other college. Meredith Grey of Grey’s Anatomy. Pete Campbell from Mad Men. Michael Corleone from The Godfather.
In fact, I look forward to next years’ Valedictory Address by your esteemed classmate, Count Chocula. Of course, your greatest fictitious graduate is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Man, can you imagine if a real Treasury Secretary made those kinds of decisions? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Now I know what you’re going to say, Dartmouth, you’re going to say, well “We’ve got Dr. Seuss.” Well guess what, we’re all tired of hearing about Dr. Seuss.
Face it: The man rhymed fafloozle with saznoozle. In the literary community, that’s called cheating.
Your insecurity is so great, Dartmouth, that you don’t even think you deserve a real podium. I’m sorry. What the hell is this thing? It looks like you stole it from the set of Survivor: Nova Scotia.
Seriously, it looks like something a bear would use at an AA meeting.
No, Dartmouth, you must stand tall. Raise your heads high and feel proud. Because if Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are your self-involved, vain, name-dropping older brothers, you are the cool, sexually confident, lacrosse playing younger sibling who knows how to throw a party and looks good in a down vest.
Brown, of course, is your lesbian sister who never leaves her room. And Penn, Columbia, and Cornell — well, frankly, who gives a shit.
Yes, I’ve always had a special bond with this school. In fact, this is my second time coming here.
When I was 17 years old and touring colleges, way back in the fall of 1980, I came to Dartmouth. Dartmouth was a very different place back then. I made the trip up from Boston on a mule and, after asking the blacksmith in West Leb for directions, I came to this beautiful campus.
No dormitories had been built yet, so I stayed with a family of fur traders in White River Junction. It snowed heavily during my visit and I was trapped here for four months.
I was forced to eat the mule, who a week earlier had been forced to eat the fur traders. Still, I loved Dartmouth and I vowed to return.
But fate dealt a heavy blow. With no money, I was forced to enroll in a small, local commuter school, a pulsating sore on a muddy elbow of the Charles River. I was a miserable wretch, and to this day I cannot help but wonder: What if I had gone to Dartmouth?
If I had gone to Dartmouth, I might have spent at least some of my college years outside and today I might not be allergic to all plant life, as well as most types of rock.
If I had gone to Dartmouth, right now I’d be wearing a fleece thong instead of a lace thong.
If I had gone to Dartmouth, I still wouldn’t know the second verse to “Dear Old Dartmouth.” Face it, none of you do. You all mumble that part.
If I had gone to Dartmouth, I’d have a liver the size and consistency of a bean bag chair.
Finally, if I had gone to Dartmouth, today I’d be getting an honorary degree at Harvard. Imagine how awesome that would be.
You are a great school, and you deserve a historic commencement address. That’s right, I want my message today to be forever remembered because it changed the world.
To do this, I must suggest groundbreaking policy. Winston Churchill gave his famous “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster College in 1946. JFK outlined his nuclear disarmament policy at American University in 1963.
Today, I would like to set forth my own policy here at Dartmouth: I call it “The Conan Doctrine.”
Under “The Conan Doctrine”: All bachelor degrees will be upgraded to master’s degrees. All master’s degrees will be upgraded to PhDs. And all MBA students will be immediately transferred to a white collar prison.
Under “The Conan Doctrine,” Winter Carnival will become Winter Carnivale and be moved to Rio. Clothing will be optional, all expenses paid by the Alumni Association.
Your nickname, the Big Green, will be changed to something more kick-ass like “The Jade Blade,” the “Seafoam Avenger,” or simply “Lime-Zilla.”
The D-Plan and “quarter system” will finally be updated to “the one sixty-fourth system.” Semesters will last three days. Students will be encouraged to take 48 semesters off. They must, however, be on campus during their Sophomore 4th of July.
Under “The Conan Doctrine,” I will re-instate Tubestock. And I will punish those who tried to replace it with Fieldstock. Rafting and beer are a much better combination than a field and a beer.
I happen to know that in two years, they were going to downgrade Fieldstock to Deskstock, seven hours of fun sitting quietly at your desk. Don’t let those bastards do it.
And finally, under “The Conan Doctrine,” all commencement speakers who shamelessly pander with cheap, inside references designed to get childish applause, will be forced to apologize – to the greatest graduating class in the history of the world. Dartmouth class of 2011 rules!
Besides policy, another hallmark of great commencement speeches is deep, profound advice like “reach for the stars.”
Well today, I am not going to waste your time with empty clichés. Instead, I am going to give you real, practical advice that you will need to know if you are going to survive the next few years.
First, adult acne lasts longer than you think. I almost cancelled two days ago because I had a zit on my eye. Guys, this is important: You cannot iron a shirt while wearing it.
Here’s another one. If you live on Ramen Noodles for too long, you lose all feelings in your hands and your stool becomes a white gel.
And finally, wearing colorful Converse high-tops beneath your graduation robe is a great way to tell your classmates that this is just the first of many horrible decisions you plan to make with the rest of your life.
Of course, there are many parents here and I have real advice for them as well. Parents, you should write this down: Many of your children you haven’t seen them in four years. Well, now you are about to see them every day when they come out of the basement to tell you the wi-fi isn’t working.
If your child majored in fine arts or philosophy, you have good reason to be worried. The only place where they are now really qualified to get a job is ancient Greece. Good luck with that degree.
The traffic today on East Wheelock is going to be murder, so once they start handing out diplomas, you should slip out in the middle of the K’s. And, I have to tell you this: You will spend more money framing your child’s diploma than they will earn in the next six months. It’s tough out there, so be patient.
The only people hiring right now are Panera Bread and Mexican drug cartels.
Yes, you parents must be patient because it is indeed a grim job market out there. And one of the reasons it’s so tough finding work is that aging baby boomers refuse to leave their jobs. Trust me on this.
Even when they promise you for five years that they are going to leave and say it on television, I mean you can go on YouTube right now and watch the guy do it, there is no guarantee they won’t come back.
Of course I’m speaking generally. But enough. This is not a time for grim prognostications or negativity.
No, I came here today because, believe it or not, I actually do have something real to tell you.
Eleven years ago I gave an address to a graduating class at Harvard. I have not spoken at a graduation since because I thought I had nothing left to say.
But then 2010 came. And now I’m here, three thousand miles from my home, because I learned a hard but profound lesson last year and I’d like to share it with you.
In 2000, I told graduates “Don’t be afraid to fail.”
Well now I’m here to tell you that, though you should not fear failure, you should do your very best to avoid it.
Nietzsche famously said “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” But what he failed to stress is that it almost kills you. Disappointment stings and, for driven, successful people like yourselves it is disorienting.
What Nietzsche should have said is “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you watch a lot of Cartoon Network and drink mid-price Chardonnay at 11 in the morning.”
Now, by definition, Commencement speakers at an Ivy League college are considered successful. But a little over a year ago, I experienced a profound and very public disappointment. I did not get what I wanted, and I left a system that had nurtured and helped define me for the better part of 17 years.
I went from being in the center of the grid to not only off the grid, but underneath the coffee table that the grid sits on, lost in the shag carpeting that is underneath the coffee table supporting the grid. It was the making of a career disaster, and a terrible analogy.
But then something spectacular happened. Fogbound, with no compass, and adrift, I started trying things. I grew a strange, cinnamon beard. I dove into the world of social media. I started tweeting my comedy. I threw together a national tour. I played the guitar. I did stand-up, wore a skin-tight blue leather suit, recorded an album, made a documentary, and frightened my friends and family.
Ultimately, I abandoned all preconceived perceptions of my career path and stature and took a job on basic cable with a network most famous for showing reruns, along with sitcoms created by a tall, black man who dresses like an old, black woman.
I did a lot of silly, unconventional, spontaneous and seemingly irrational things and guess what: with the exception of the blue leather suit, it was the most satisfying and fascinating year of my professional life.
To this day I still don’t understand exactly what happened, but I have never had more fun, been more challenged — and this is important – had more conviction about what I was doing.
How could this be true? Well, it’s simple: There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized.
I went to college with many people who prided themselves on knowing exactly who they were and exactly where they were going.
At Harvard, five different guys in my class told me that they would one day be President of the United States. Four of them were later killed in motel shoot-outs. The other one briefly hosted Blues Clues, before dying senselessly in yet another motel shoot-out.
Your path at 22 will not necessarily be your path at 32 or 42. One’s dream is constantly evolving, rising and falling, changing course. This happens in every job, but because I have worked in comedy for twenty-five years, I can probably speak best about my own profession.
Way back in the 1940s there was a very, very funny man named Jack Benny. He was a giant star, easily one of the greatest comedians of his generation. And a much younger man named Johnny Carson wanted very much to be Jack Benny.
In some ways he was, but in many ways he wasn’t. He emulated Jack Benny, but his own quirks and mannerisms, along with a changing medium, pulled him in a different direction. And yet his failure to completely become his hero made him the funniest person of his generation.
David Letterman wanted to be Johnny Carson, and was not, and as a result my generation of comedians wanted to be David Letterman. And none of us are. My peers and I have all missed that mark in a thousand different ways.
But the point is this: It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound re-invention.
So, at the age of 47, after 25 years of obsessively pursuing my dream, that dream changed. For decades, in show business, the ultimate goal of every comedian was to host The Tonight Show. It was the Holy Grail, and like many people I thought that achieving that goal would define me as successful. But that is not true.
No specific job or career goal defines me, and it should not define you. In 2000 — in 2000, I told graduates to not be afraid to fail, and I still believe that.
But today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.
Many of you here today are getting your diploma at this Ivy League school because you have committed yourself to a dream and worked hard to achieve it. And there is no greater cliché in a commencement address than “follow your dream.”
Well I am here to tell you that whatever you think your dream is now, it will probably change. And that’s okay.
Four years ago, many of you had a specific vision of what your college experience was going to be and who you were going to become. And I bet, today, most of you would admit that your time here was very different from what you imagined.
Your roommates changed, your major changed, for some of you your sexual orientation changed. I bet some of you have changed your sexual orientation since I began this speech. I know I have.
But through the good and especially the bad, the person you are now is someone you could never have conjured in the fall of 2007.
I have told you many things today, most of it foolish but some of it true.
I’d like to end my address by breaking a taboo and quoting myself from 17 months ago.
At the end of my final program with NBC, just before signing off, I said “Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.”
Today, receiving this honor and speaking to the Dartmouth Class of 2011 from behind a tree-trunk, I have never believed that more.
Thank you very much, and congratulations.
#2: Comedian Amy Poehler deliver’s the Harvard 2011 Commencement Speech
Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend me your beers.
I am honored that you chose me to help you celebrate your graduation today. I can only assume I am here today because of my subtle and layered work in a timeless classic entitled “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo”. And for that I say, you’re welcome.
I’m truly, truly delighted to be her at Harvard . I graduated from Boston College. Which some call the Harvard of Boston. But we all know that Harvard is the Harvard of Harvard. And you can quote me on that.
I have to admit I am very surprised to be here because like so many of you, I was pretty convinced the Rapture was going to happen. Show of hands, how many of you woke up on Sunday and thought, “You’re kidding me! I sold all of my belongings, I told my boss to shove it and we are still here?” I understand how you feel. I am so mad at Heaven right now.
So I tried to write today’s speech the way I wrote everything in College. Stayed up all night, typing on a Canon word processor while listening to Sir Mix-a-lot. To be fair, first I took a nap, I ate a large pretzel, I cried a little bit and then I went to see that movie, Fast Five.
And I am here to tell you, life is like a heist that requires good drivers, an explosives expert, a hot girl who doubles as a master of disguise and this is a hard and fast rule. If the Rock shows up, they’re on to you.
But the class of 2011 did not invite me here to tell jokes. They invited me here to talk about the recent tensions between oil traders regulators of the commodities futures trading commission. I’m sure we all read the New York Times this morning which posited that there may be a complex scheme that relied on the close relationships between physical oil prices and the prices of financial futures, which of course, as we all know, moves in parallel. Hilarious.
What do I know about Harvard? I know it is the oldest American university. I know it provides the ultimate experience in higher learning and according to the movies, I know it is filled with people who get rich either by inventing things or suing the people who they claim stole their invention. Let me be clear. I believe everything I see in movies. And if you remember anything I say today, remember this. Every single thing you see in movies is real.
So, what do the fine students of 2011 need to hear from me? If I wanted to give you advice as a Bostonian, I would remind you that: “Just because you’re wicked smart it doesn’t mean you are better than me.”
And I would also want to say: “Good for you for working so hard. You graduated from ‘Hahvahd’ — it must be nice.”
If I wanted to give you advice as a New Yorker, I’d tell you, “Excuse me, ma’am, could you move please? Don’t walk in the bike lane — get off the bike lane please.” And I would also like to take a moment to inform you as a New Yorker and as my cab driver did recently that Bloomberg pretends to take the subway, but we all know that’s a bunch of baloney.
And if I wanted to give you advice as an actor, I would tell you this: Don’t do it. Don’t be one. There are too many. I have a lot of talented friends who aren’t working. Sorry, no more room at the inn. I bet you are great, but just work with the human genome instead.
You’re all smart and sophisticated people. You know the world in a way that my generation never did. Because of that, I realize I don’t have much advice to give to you. In many ways, I learned from you. I don’t have many answers, just questions. Specifically, when I use Facetime on my iPad and I’m talking to someone and I take a picture, sometimes the screen freezes. How do I fix that?
All I can tell you today is what I have learned. What I have discovered as a person in this world. And that is this: you can’t do it alone. As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own.
Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. No one is here today because they did it on their own. Okay, maybe Josh, but he’s just a straight up weirdo. You’re all here today because someone gave you strength. Helped you. Held you in the palm of their hand. God, Allah, Buddha, Gaga — whomever you pray to.
They have helped you get here, and that should make you feel less alone. And less scared. Because it has been a scary ten years. You were young children when you watched planes hit the World Trade Center. You quickly understood what it was like to feel out of control. Your formative teenage years were filled with orange alerts and rogue waves and unaccomplished missions.
For my generation, it was AIDS. We all grow up afraid of something. Your generation had to get used to taking off your shoes at the airprot. My generation had to get used to awkward PSAs from Boyz2men telling us to use protection. But during those tough times, we realized how wonderful it felt to be part of a group.
But more about me.
I moved to Chicago in the early 1990s and I studied improvisation there. I learned some rules that I try to apply still today: Listen. Say “yes.” Live in the moment. Make sure you play with people who have your back. Make big choices early and often. Don’t start a scene where two people are talking about jumping out of a plane. Start the scene having already jumped. If you are scared, look into your partner’s eyes. You will feel better.
This advice has come in handy and it would often be something I would think about when I would perform on Saturday Night Live. Live television can be very nerve-wracking and I remember one time being nervous, looking into the eyes of the host and feeling better. I should point out I was wearing a chicken suit at the time. The host was Donald Trump. He was wearing a bigger, more elaborate chicken suit. I looked into his eyes, I saw that he looked really stupid, and I instantly felt better.
See how that works? I should point out that that sketch was written by a Harvard graduate and also a graduate from Northwestern — but who cares about that. Am I right?
I cannot stress enough that the answer to a lot of your life’s questions is often in someone else’s face. Try putting your iPhones down every once in a while and look at people’s faces. People’s faces will tell you amazing things. Like if they are angry or nauseous, or asleep.
I have been lucky to be a part of great ensembles. My work with the upright citizens brigade led me to my work on Saturday Night Live, and when I graduated from that comedy college, I was worried about what came next. Then Parks and Recreation came along, a show I am proud of where I get to work with people I love. You never know what is around the corner unless you peek. Hold someone’s hand while you do it. You will feel less scared. You can’t do this alone. Besides it is much more fun to succeed and fail with other people. You can blame them when things go wrong. Take your risks now. As you grow older, you become more fearful and less flexible. And I mean that literally. I hurt my knee on the treadmill this week and it wasn’t even on. Try to keep your mind open to possibilities and your mouth closed on matters that you don’t know about. Limit your “always” and your “nevers.” Continue to share your heart with people even if its been broken. Don’t treat your heart like an action figure wrapped in plastic and never used. And don’t try to give me that nerd argument that your heart is a batman with a limited edition silver battering and therefore if it stays in its original package it increases in value. Watch it Harvard, you’re not better than me.
Even though, as a class, you are smart, you are still allowed to say, “I don’t know.” Just because you are in high demand, you are still allowed to say, “Let me get back to you.” This will come in handy when your parents ask when you plan to move out of their basement and you answer, “I don’t know. Let me get back to you.” Which leads me to my final thought: would it kill you to be nicer to your parents? They have sacrificed so much for you, and all they want you to do is smile and take a picture with your weird cousins. Do that for them. And with less eye-rolling, please. And so, class of 2011, it is time to leave. Oprah has spoken.
So I will end with this quote: Heyah, Heyah, Heyah, Heyah, Heyah, heyah, heyah, heyah, alright alright alright, alright, alright. The group: Outcast; the song: Heyah. The lyrics: nonsense. I’m sorry it was really late when I wrote this.
This is what I want to say: When you feel scared, hold someone’s hand and look into their eyes. And when you feel brave, do the same thing. You are all here because you are smart. And you are brave. And if you add kindness and the ability to change a tire, you almost make up the perfect person. I thank you for asking me to speak to you today. As you head out into the world I wish you love and light, joy, and much laughter. And as always, please don’t forget to tip your waitresses.
Thank you very much.
#1: Will Ferell’s Classic Harvard Commencement Speech
his is not the Worcester, Mass Boat Show, is it? I am sorry. I have made a terrible mistake. Ever since I left “Saturday Night Live,” I mostly do public speaking now. And I must have made an error in the little Palm Pilot. Boy. Don’t worry. I got it on me. I got the speech on me. Let’s see. Ah, yes. Here we go.
You know, when Bill Gates first called me to speak to you today, I was honored. But when he wanted me to be one of the Roxbury guys, I — Sorry, that’s Microsoft. I’m sorry about that. Star Trek Convention. No. NRA. NAACP. Dow Chemical. No. But that is a good one. That is a good speech. The University of Michigan Law. Johns Hopkins Medical School. I’m sorry. Are you sure this is not the boat show? No, I have it. I do have it on me. I do. It’s here. Thank you.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Faculty, Administrators, Friends and Family and, of course, the graduating Class of 2003, I wish to say hello and thank you for bestowing this honor upon me as your Class Day speaker. After months of secret negotiations, several hundred secret ballots, and a weekend retreat with Vice President Dick Cheney in his secret mountain bunker, a Class Day speaker was chosen, and it was me. You obviously have made a grave error. But it’s too late now. So let’s just go with it.
Today’s speech is going to be a little different, a little unorthodox. Some of you may find it to be shocking. I’m not going to stand up here and try to be funny. Because even though I am a professional comedian of the highest caliber, I’ve decided to do one thing that a lot of people are probably afraid to do, and that’s give it to you straight.
As most of you are probably aware, I didn’t graduate from Harvard. In fact, I never even got a call back from Admissions. Damn you, Harvard! Damn you! I told myself I would not get emotional today. But damn it, I’m here, and sometimes it’s just good to cry.
I’m not one of you. Okay? I can’t relate to who you are and what you’ve been through. I graduated from the University of Life. All right? I received a degree from the School of Hard Knocks. And our colors were black and blue, baby. I had office hours with the Dean of Bloody Noses. All right? I borrowed my class notes from Professor Knuckle Sandwich and his Teaching Assistant, Ms. Fat Lip Thon Nyun. That’s the kind of school I went to for real, okay?
So my gift to you, Class of 2003, is to tell you about the real world through my eyes, through my experiences. And I’m sorry, but I refuse to sugarcoat it. I ain’t gonna do it. And I probably shouldn’t use the word “ain’t” during this day in which we celebrate education. But that’s just the way I play it, Homes.
Graduates, if you will indulge me for a moment, let me paint a picture of what it’s like out there. The last four or, for some of you, five years you’ve been living in a fantasyland, running around, talking about Hemingway, or Clancy, or, I don’t know, I mean whatever you read here at Harvard. The Novelization of the Matrix, I don’t know. I don’t know what you do here.
But I do know this. 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 Towncar. 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.
A world where your acting coach, Bob Leslie-Duncan — yes, the Bob Leslie-Duncan — tells you time and time again that you will never, ever be considered as a dramatic actor because you don’t play things real, and are too over the top. Amazing! Simply amazing!
I’m sorry, graduates. But this is a world where you aren’t allowed to use your cell phone in airplanes, during live theater, at the movies, at funerals, or even during your own elective surgery. Apparently, the Berlin Wall went back up because we now live in Russia. I mean just try lighting up a cigar in a movie theater or paying for a dinner for 20 friends with an autograph. It ain’t that easy. Strong words, I know. Tough talk. But more like tough love. Because this is where my faith in you guys comes into play, Harvard University’s graduating Class of 2003, without a doubt, the finest, most talented group of sexual beings this great land has to offer.
Now I know I blew some of your minds with my depiction of what it’s really like out there. But if anyone can handle the ups and downs of this crazy blue marble we call Planet Earth, it’s you guys. As I stare out into this vast sea of shining faces, I see the best and brightest. Some of you will be captains of industry and business. Others of you will go on to great careers in medicine, law and public service. Four of you — and I’m not at liberty to say which four — will go on to magnificent careers in the porno industry. I’m not trying to be funny. That’s just a statistical fact.
One of you, specifically John Lee, will spend most of your time just hanging out in your car eating nachos. You will all come back from time to time to this beautiful campus for reunions, and ask the question, “Does anyone ever know what happened to John Lee?” At that point, he will invariably pop out from the bushes and yell, “Nachos anyone?!” At first, it will scare the crap out of you. But then you’ll share a laugh with your classmates and ultimately look forward to John jumping out of the bushes as a yearly event.
I’d like to change gears here, if I could. Talk a little bit about “Saturday Night Live.” Now, during my 18-year stint on the show, I had the chance to play or impersonate some very interesting people, none more interesting than our current President, Mr. George W. Bush. Now in some cases, you actually have contact with some of the people you play. As a byproduct of this former situation, the President and myself have become quite good friends. In fact, I might even call him a father figure of sorts, granted a dim-witted father figure who likes to take a lot of naps and start wars, but a father figure nonetheless.
When I told the President that I’d be speaking here today, he wondered if I would express some sentiments to you. And I said I’d do my best. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to read this message from the President of the United States.
Students, Faculty, Families and Distinguished Guests, I just want to take time to congratulate you on your outstanding achievement as graduates of the Class of 2002. The great thing about being the Class of 2002 is that you can always remember what year you graduated because 2002 is a palindrome which, of course, is a word or number that is the same read backwards or forwards. I’ll bet you’re surprised I know that word, but I do. So you can suck on it.
Make no mistake, Harvard University is one of the finest in the land. And its graduates are that fine as well. You’re young men and women whose exuberance exude a confident confidence of a bygone era. I believe it was Shakespeare who said it best when he said, “Look yonder into the darkness for knowledge onto which I say go onto that which thou possess into thy night for thee have come with only a single sword and vanquished thee into darkness.”
I’m going to be honest with you, I just made that up. But I don’t know how to delete it from the computer. Tomorrow’s graduation day speaker is former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo. Ernie’s a good man, a deeply religious man, and one of the original members of the Latino boy band Menudo. So listen up to Ernie. He was at the beginning of the whole boy band explosion.
As you set off into the world, don’t be afraid to question your leaders. But don’t ask too many questions at one time or that are too hard because your leaders get tired and/or cranky. All of you sitting here have the brightest of futures ahead. Many of you will go on to stellar careers and various pursuits. And four of you — and I’m not at liberty to say which four — will go on to star in the porno industry.
One of the challenges you will be faced with is finding a job in our depressed economy. In fact, the chances of landing a decent job are about as good as finding weapons of mass destruction in the Iraqi desert. Slim and none. And Slim just left the building. In fact, the closest thing I found to looking like a weapon of mass destruction is the turd that Dick Cheney left in the Oval Office toilet about an hour ago. Man, that thing is a WMD if I’ve ever seen one. On that note, God bless and happy graduation.
You know, I sincerely hope you enjoy this next chapter of your life because it’s really going to be great, as long as you pay your taxes. And don’t just take a year off because you think Uncle Sam is snoozing at the wheel because he will descend upon you like a hawk from hell. Let’s just put it this way. After some past indiscretions with the IRS, my take-home pay last year was $9,000.
I figured I’d leave you today with a song, if you will. So, Jeff, if you could come up here. Jeff Heck, everyone. Please welcome one of your fellow graduates. Jeff is, of course, from Eliot House. You know what you guys? You guys at Eliot House, give yourselves a nice round of applause because you had the head lice scare this year, and it shut you down for most of last semester. But you didn’t mind the tents they set up for you, and you were just troopers. You really were.
Anyway, here’s a song that I think really captures the essence of the Harvard experience. It goes a little like this.
I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone,
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity.
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind.
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea,
All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see.
Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.
Okay, you know what? I’m just realizing that this is a terrible graduation song. Once again, I’m sorry. This is the first time I’ve actually listened to the lyrics. Man, it’s a downer. It’s bleak.
Boy, I want to finish this. Just give me a minute, and let me figure out how to fix this thing. Okay. I think I got it.
Now don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the Harvard alumni endowment fund.
It adds up, has performed at 22 percent growth over the last six years.
Dust in the wind, you’re so much more than dust in the wind.
Dust in the wind, you’re shiny little very smart pieces of dust in the wind.
Thank you. Good luck. And have a great day tomorrow.