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June 04, 2005

Advice To Commencement Speakers

Don't pull an Erica Jong. No one wants to hear your politics at a commencement speech.

Here's how you write a commencement speech:

1) Say something nice about the college you're at. Or, if you're at a sucky college, say something nice about the town. If the town sucks too, relay an amusing anecdote about your own college experience.

It doesn't have to be that amusing. No one's fucking listening to you anyway. They're all batting around beach-balls and making plans on the cell phone for getting extremely drunk once they give their parents the slip.

Well, a couple of people are listening. Usually the proud parents of first-generation college graduates; this commencement will be one of their few moments in a college setting. So don't totally phone it in; Mr. and Mrs. Duk travelled 250 miles to be here.

2) Talk about learning. Also mention social responsibility. VAGUELY. Liberals love it and even conservatives don't mind it. See, conservatives hate this social responsibility shit, but we know it's just expected at these sorts of things, like pretending you can't tell the bride is pregnant at a wedding.

But keep it gassy and vague. And short. Very, very short.

Remember: No one is fucking listening to you anyway, except Mr. and Mrs. Duk, and they could care less about social responsibility. They have a dry cleaning establishment to run. One-hour martinizing is their social responsibility, and God bless 'em for that.

3) Making a winking reference to the consumption of alcohol. No one's listening, but they'll hear that, and cheer.

After all that bullshit about social responsibility you just laid on them, you can at least oblige them by pandering to them.

But don't make any racy comments about sex; remember, Mr. and Mrs. Duk are listening, and they think their daughter Jenny is a virgin. You don't want to provoke any uncomfortable silences at the after-commencement family meal at the local Bennigan's.

4) There will be a part of your speech where you're tempted to say something bad about the Iraq War, George Bush, or Republicans generally. Don't.

Remember that thing about no one listening to you? Well, it's true, but only because you're saying pretty much nothing at all. As soon as you say something interesting -- and here I mean controversial-interesting -- they're going to start listening.

And they will be angry.

Because they don't want to fucking listen to you, jagoff. They're all trying to coordinate moving three kegs up six flights of stairs all done with a fake ID that doesn't match the credit card boosted from Mom and it's hard as fuck to talk on the cell phone with the crowd booing and catcalling. And this is going to get them pissed off.

So shut the fuck up about it, moron.

5) Tell them all how they've accomplished so goddamned much by getting drunk and laid for four years while occasionally attending a class about astronomy and/or romantic poets. (The latter class being taken largely because of the belief that poems would be short, and hence the class a total gut, before fucking finding out that Byron's Don Juan is like six hundred eighty thousand cantos fucking long, and Shelley was apparently paid by the word, too.)

You'll hear sporadic cheers. Don't think that that means anyone was listening to you; they weren't. Mr. and Mrs. Duk were just applauding their daughter and the rest of everyone just started clapping out of respect, erroneously believing that a special needs student had been mentioned or something.

You may be tempted to follow up your mention of academic excellence by taking a shot at George Bush's C-average. Don't, asshole. See those people you're talking to? Half of them are C-average students, or would be if any colleges still gave out any grades lower than a B.

Half of them are also Republicans.

So shut the fuck up. No one's listening to you anyhow.

6) Show the kids you're "down wit' it" by dropping a pop culture reference you erroneously believe to be cutting edge. In 2005, it's just about the right time to be making a reference to Kurt Cobain.

You will hear some scattered chuckles as people laugh at your ignorance. They're not listening to you, but when you say Kurt Cobain, they hear that.

You might also hear groans. This means that a popular student at the school just blew his head off with a shotgun, as Kurt Cobain did, and you picked a very poor "topical" reference, not even inadvertantly funny.

It's probably time to wrap it up.

No big deal; no one's listening anyway. Are you getting this whole "no one's listening deal"?

7) Loudly say "In conclusion..." Everyone will cheer wildly, like they're the first ones who ever thought to cheer at "In conclusion." But say it anyway. They want to cheer, and they've had nothing much to cheer at in you're speech, as they haven't been listening.

Even Mr. and Mrs. Duk are muttering "Oh, thank God it's nearly over" at this point.

8) Go out on a punchy note. Remember, "George Bush is a Nazi asshole" is not really the sort of "punch" we want here. More like something patterned after Casey Kasem's "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

Honestly, no one's listening, so you can just say "Ten-four, good buddy," and no one will be the wiser.

And that's it.

Remember, you're not the star of the show; the kids and their families are. Ever been to a wedding where the priest or rabbi is far too attention-craved and considers himself a natural performer whose time it is to shine? And then goes on, and on, and on, and on, refusing to give up the spotlight to whom it rightfully belongs?

Don't be that fuckin' guy.

And nothing about sex, Iraq, or George Bush.

That's what the post-commencement mixer with the faculty is for.

Thanks to Dutch Jr. and LauraW for correcting my loose shit on Mr. and Mrs. Duk becoming Mr. and Mrs. Kim at the end of the bit.

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posted by Ace at 03:44 AM

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