ok, i was reading a friend’s blog this morning with the transcript of a commencement speech on it, and it’s gotten me on a commencement speech kick because it was beautiful. anyway, as i felt incredibly inspired, i’ve decided to read a commencement speech a day. because then EVERY DAY FEELS LIKE COLLEGE GRADUATION DAY, which was admittedly the winner of the prize for MOST ANTI-CLIMATIC DAY OF MY LIFE EVER EVER EVER. and what a way to live! if every day feels like a vague, ambiguous finale for achievement! i might occasionally even rent out some old white man in a position of power to shake my hand and hand me a rolled up piece of paper (maybe from next to the printer scrap pile) if i’m feeling extra giddy and successful!!!

funny hat = funny speech? no? boo!
courtesy of Flickr and JohnDan

ahem, anyway, as i was saying. commencement speeches mark important! moments and milestones! (Kermit the Frog at Southampton, 1996) in our lives! and give us formulas to live by! and adages to consider! as we battle with existential and moral dilemmas of how to live conscientiously! (Gloria Steinem at Tufts, 1987) and how to be good to ourselves! (Toni Morrison at Wellesley, 2004) and others? (David Foster Wallace at Kenyon, 2005)

at the end of the hour, they have nothing to do with graduating from college or education or really anything about anything (Will Ferrell at Harvard, 2004). or maybe i’m just a bad listener/reader.

in any case, if you want to learn lessons about frog-envy (Salman Rushdie at Bard, 1996), gridlock (Tom Hanks at Vassar, 2005), passion (Ray Bradbury at CalTech, 2000) or working in a leather clothing store (Conan O’Brien at Harvard, 2000), there’s a speech for every occasion. and non-occasion, as the case may be, and in fact, is.

courtesy of Flickr and Ruk: Peter Rukavina’s Weblog

and of course, because humanity wouldn’t be humanity without some kind of pursuit of knowledge, here is the discussion of the results of a study synthesizing the “human wisdom” of 150 college commencement speeches from 2004 as based on content and most frequently mentioned topics and/or The Onion’s Celebrity Commencement Speeches.


on another note of fervor and also indirectly related to the aforementioned, recently people have been throwing compliments at me. huge piles of sparkling and shiny compliments. ones that i can last on for days and days without having to even purchase my monthly issue of Self-Esteem Magazine (i should just get a subscription). i’d like to tell you all something. and maybe you’ll listen to me. and maybe you won’t. like most commencement speakers, i know most of you are more attuned to the whirring noise in your head than to anything anyone else ever says to you. trust me, i’ve been there. that’s me. whirrrrrrr. anyway, i realized…wait for it…whirrrrrrrr. just hold on a second, will you? whirrrrrrrrrrr.

compliments…are…transient. you can even not necessarily be feeling that great about yourself and someone will throw a bucket full of nice words over your head, and you might feel better. you might even feel awesome. but it’s very very superficial. the important thing is to remember you can’t depend on how someone else feels about you as to how you feel about yourself. other people are fickle, and often times, unreliable (whirrrrrrr). it’s not that you shouldn’t love them and appreciate them for what they do lend to your life, BUT at the same time, don’t make your self-esteem tower one big game of jenga made up of compliment blocks. it seems obvious, but i had to read kermit’s speech 3 times this morning just to get it through my thick green head.

jim’s self-esteem is teetering.
courtesy of Flickr and Peter Barker


in conclusion (because i learned from various and numerous english teachers that conclusions are supposed to wrap up what has been covered but with a NEW TWIST), the subway smelled like fish who do not use deoderant this morning. you’re so welcome. you may all return to tending your zen gardens.

courtesy of Flickr and
Burogu: Japanese Culture


  1. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I thought her commencement speech was pretty funny, but she wouldn’t let me tape it or give me a transcript, so I didn’t post the text. (I tried to get her to crib lines from Baz Lurman’s, “You’re free to wear sunscreen,” but no dice. She mostly talked about her obligation, as the school’s resident hippie liberal, to tell her fellow students that they should work at improving the world they live in.)– Johndan

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