RSS
Grading 2010's commencement speeches
Everyone from President Obama to Glenn Beck has been addressing classes of 2010 this year. Here's a pick of the best commencement speeches
 
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at George Washington University.
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at George Washington University.
Getty

Before this year's crop of college graduates enter the real world, they'll have to sit through one last rite of passage — commencement. As always, big-name speakers are taking the stage on university campuses across the nation to offer parting advice to rows of students in mortarboards and robes. Here's a quick list of some of the most memorable speeches of this graduation season:

Most surreal speech: Glenn Beck
The Fox News firebrand spoke to students at Liberty University in an address "peppered with tears, humor and ... offbeat wisdom," says Liz Barry in the Lynchburg News & Advance. How offbeat? "Cabs smell worse in the summer," he warned students, adding: "Labels are meaningless, but Louis Vuitton shoes are really the best." Beck's "rambling and disjointed" speech also encouraged students to "shoot to kill," reports Crooks & Liars.

Most Ironic Speech: Ben Bernanke
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve and "the man who controls the United States money supply," had a somewhat contrary message for students of the University of South Carolina, says Daniel Indiviglio in The Atlantic — money isn't everything. "By itself, money is not enough," Bernanke said. "Indeed, taking a high-paying job only for the money can detract from happiness if it involves spending less time with your family, stress, and other such drawbacks." 

Best line poking fun at immigration debate: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Famous for his movie one-liners, California's governor made a typical throwaway joke at the expense of Arizona's controversial new immigration law, says Stephanie Condon at CBS News. "I was also going to give a graduation speech in Arizona this weekend," the Austrian-born politician told students at Emory University in Atlanta. "But with my accent, I was afraid they would try to deport me."

Best dig at modern society: Michelle Obama
The First Lady's speech to students at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff mainly drew on the institution's history as a mainly black college and the achievements of its alumni — but she couldn't resist a pop at tabloid America. Modern culture, said Obama, "glorifies easy answers and instant gratification, the fast food, the instant messaging, the easy credit. ... It's a culture that elevates today's celebrity gossip over the serious issues that will shape our future for decades to come."

Most befuddled by modern technology: Barack Obama
Not to be outdone by his wife, the president angered technophiles across America when he took "some of our favorite toys" to task, reports Ben Patterson in Yahoo News. "With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment," Obama told students at Hampton University in Virginia.

Most Anti-Climactic Speech: Alec Baldwin
NYU students might have expected a gag-filled laugh extravaganza from the star of hit sitcom 30 Rock, a regular SNL host and presenter of this year's Oscars ceremony. But Alec Baldwin treated graduates to a "pretty normal 'You're graduating, TA-DA!' speech," says Emerald Catron at Asylum.

Most Anti-Climactic Protest: Jamie Dimon
Syracuse University's decision to invite JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon to give this year's commencement speech was met with jeers by some students, reports Dawn Kopecki in Business Week. Many said they would remove their robes during his speech as a protest against the banking industry, but at the actual event "fewer than a dozen students" did so.

Toughest crowd: Rutgers University
The New Jersey institution traditionally gives the state's new governor an honorary degree in his first year of office. Unfortunately for Republican Gov. Chris Christie, the honor was bestowed only a few weeks after he proposed a 15 percent cut in state funding to ... Rutgers University. However, despite protests and some booing, Christie "appeared to win over the crowd," says Kelly Heyboer at the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week