The best commencement address I've heard personally was Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury, who spoke when my brother graduated from dental school.
I don't even remember the speaker at my own university graduation. I thought it was Vernon Jordan, but it turns out that was the previous year. I guess Sol Linowitz didn't make much of an impact on me. It was 24 years ago this week, by the way.
This weekend, students at New York City's New School weren't very pleased with their university president's choice of speaker, and they protested loud and long. That same speaker, John McCain, positioning himself for another run at the White House, also spoke at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, where he defended the war in Iraq.
In a Times Op-Ed (access required, but if you're really hot to read it, ask me), Falwell lamely explained that inviting McCain to speak was not an endorsement of his candidacy.
Part of our tradition is to expose students to outstanding leaders from all walks of life, including some who may not completely agree with Liberty's philosophy.Now there's a diverse group of speakers, eh? Is this man so self-absorbed, so blind to the larger world outside his Fundamentalist nest, that he thinks those four names represent "leaders from all walks of life"?? The mind boggles.
Our commencement exercises present an opportunity to do this. Past speakers like George H. W. Bush, Clarence Thomas, Billy Graham and Ed Meese have all shared their wisdom with our students. What these speakers have in common, despite their differences, is the belief that America is made better through a life dedicated to public service. Mr. McCain fits squarely within this tradition.
While McCain was defending W's policies at Liberty, he spared a moment to attack his detractors. From ThinkProgress:
In 2000, John McCain called Rev. Jerry Falwell an "agent of intolerance." Yesterday, in a naked attempt to broaden his political base, McCain delivered the commencement speech at Falwell's Liberty University.So next time you criticize someone because you oppose the killing and maiming of human beings, remember: you are just infatuated with self-expression.
McCain's hypocrisy was noted on many blogs. He returned the favor in his speech at Liberty by attacking the blogosphere:When I was a young man, I was quite infatuated with self-expression, and rightly so because, if memory conveniently serves, I was so much more eloquent, well-informed, and wiser than anyone else I knew. It seemed I understood the world and the purpose of life so much more profoundly than most people. I believed that to be especially true with many of my elders, people whose only accomplishment, as far as I could tell, was that they had been born before me, and, consequently, had suffered some number of years deprived of my insights. . . . It's a pity that there wasn't a blogosphere then. I would have felt very much at home in the medium.Oh, so McCain is always right - the problem is that we're bloggers, so we're too impressed with ourselves to understand. If you are reading this, you are part of the blogosphere too, so you won't understand McCain's genius either.
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The Nation on McCain's New School appearance:
"I haven't heard anyone aroused about me speaking at the New School," John McCain said in April, defending his decision to address Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.Read more here.
Nobody at all, except for virtually the entire crowd at the New School's Madison Square Garden graduation ceremony in New York City. At the beginning of the event, New School President, and former Senator, Bob Kerrey predicted a raucous affair. "Our founding purpose is proudly liberal," he said. "We began as an act of protest."
The school's tradition of dissent carried on today. Scores of New School students held orange signs, and a few banners, reading "McCain Does Not Speak For Me," and "Our Commencement Is Not Your Platform." What began as mild rumblings of disapproval before McCain's speech soon exploded into boos, catcalls and turned backs.
The spark was provided by undergraduate keynote speaker Jean Sara Rohe, a composed, seemingly innocuous jazz musician and singer. After beginning with a short folk song (true to classic graduation speech form) Rohe quickly tossed aside her prepared remarks to directly address McCain.
"This ceremony has become something other than the celebratory gathering it should be," Rohe said. "The Senator does not reflect the ideals on which this school was founded. This was a top-down decision in which the students played no part." The crowd erupted.