The 10 Commencement Speeches We’re Most Excited For This Spring
Nothing kills a graduation ceremony like a bad commencement speech. Speakers who go too long, are too dry, or who don’t plan their remarks can single-handedly bring down the mood of what should be a happy, excited crowd. But credit colleges that put in the effort to secure speakers who are well-known, accomplished, and above all, interesting. Their graduations should be a memorable way for students to end their college careers. These are the 10 commencement addresses we are the most excited about (and wish we could attend).
We really think Aaron Sorkin should start his talk by screaming, “You want the degree? You can’t handle the degree!” Moneyball was good, and The Social Network was awesome, but for our money it’s all about A Few Good Men. The Oscar-winning screenwriter behind these films will be at Syracuse University on May 13, 2012 addressing outgoing Orange in the Carrier Dome. A Class of ’83 alum, Sorkin will be receiving an honorary degree at the ceremony. If he is as insightful in speeches as he is in interviews, this will be a great talk.
The women graduating from Barnard in May were all set to hear from Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The New York Times, at their graduation on May 14. But when the leader of the free world calls you up and offers you his speaking services, you say yes. Although the school did not seriously seek President Obama as a commencement speaker, students were justifiably pumped that they would get to hear from him in person. Air Force Academy grads will also be treated to a speech from the president on May 23, as will graduating seniors fromJoplin Highin that tornado-ravaged Missouri town.
By some accounts, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop was one of the worst commencement speakers ever. Well, Dr. Gupta will not be surgeon general (although the president wanted him for the job), but he will be the commencement speaker at UM this year. Gupta is a rock-star doctor, reporting for CNN one minute, then jetting off to Haiti to save babies the next. He’s also an author and medical commentator who shoots straight, even when it isn’t politically correct. And he was named “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2003. So enjoy, ladies and gentlemen.
This year’s graduates were 14 when Anchorman hit theaters. For many, that was their introduction to the hilarious comedic actor Steve Carell, who would go on to star in instant classics like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine, and, to a much lesser extent, Dinner For Schmucks. Princeton students selected Carell as their choice for speaker at Class Day, an event that takes place the day before the graduation ceremony to honor certain class members. As Class Day co-chair Gabriel Debenedetti said of Carell, “His humor is legendary, and we are positive he is the perfect person to send off the Class of 2012 with a bang.”
He’s been called “a Cronkite for the 21st century.”He’s covered virtually every major news story of the last eight years, when he took over anchor duties atNBC Nightly News. And somehow he’s recently become the king of cameos. With frequent, funny appearances on shows beloved by college students like The Daily Show and 30 Rock, Williams has proven he’s more than just a talking head. He really is an anchor for a new generation: one that doesn’t take himself too seriously and (hopefully) can deliver a fun, entertaining commencement address.
You may not know the name, but you sure as heck know the work. After graduating from CWR in 1998, Paul Buchheit became Google’s 23rd employee. Five years later, his creation known as Gmail went live. The company also adopted his suggestion that they make “Don’t be evil” the motto. On May 20, graduates will get to hear from this tech guru who now works with microfinance company Y Combinator. Buchheit always seems to be on the forefront of the next big thing and should make for a fascinating speaker.
While the president makes his round of commencement speeches, the first lady will be on her own mini-tour of college graduations. Michelle Obama has signed up to be the keynote speaker atVirginia Tech on May 11, N.C. A&T State University on May 12, and Oregon State on June 17. The speech at VT will be especially poignant, as the school just passed the fifth anniversary of the horrific school shooting that took place there in 2007. Mrs. Obama has already proven that she can give a heartfelt and inspiring graduation message, and we are sure she will do so again this year.
Even when President George W. Bush did things many really disagreed with, the sight of his gracious and dignified wife right by his side always seemed to give us reason to hope. After all, if she believed in him, why couldn’t we? Laura Bush was also a staunch supporter of education in the U.S. and a big advocate for the No Child Left Behind program. On May 5, this Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade will take her passion for education back to school when she speaks at the High Point University graduation ceremony.
Sophisticate hero Ira Glass will swing by the Winslow Great Lawn on May 18, 2012 to deliver the keynote address at graduation in his trademark whiny voice, and pick up an honorary degree in the process. Students may be unfamiliar with This American Life, in which host Glass tells stories on a theme, then brings in well-known performers to do their own stories. The speech should serve as a great intro to a very gifted storyteller who, like Brian Williams, has an iconic persona that he isn’t afraid to poke fun at.
Without the hard work done by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the world would never have known for certain whether you can briefly stick your hand into molten lava without injury (you can) or whether you can catch viruses from rats off of aluminum can lids (you cannot). According to his bio, thisMythbusters co-host has been a projectionist, animator, graphic designer, carpenter, interior and stage designer, toy designer, welder, and scenic painter. If the 2012 class at Sarah Lawrence aren’t interested in what Savage has to say, there’s something wrong with them.