Alec Baldwin speaking at NYU's graduation: Who are the best pop culture commencement speakers?
Image Credit: Baldwin: Sylvain Gaboury/PR Photos; Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesGraduation season is upon us. As America’s college seniors are busy trying to figure out their future, their colleges have been busy booking A-listers to speak at their respective commencement ceremonies. President Obama kicked things off at the University of Michigan last Saturday (and he’ll be returning to Michigan to speak at Kalamazo Central High School‘s graduation in June, after its students won a nationwide contest). On May 12th, Alec Baldwin will deliver the commencement address for his alma mater, New York University, whose ceremony takes place in Yankee Stadium. Jack Donaghy and Derek Jeter — could it BE any cooler?
Other notable speakers slated for this year’s commencement ceremonies:
Lisa Kudrow, Vassar College: While Kudrow’s various television personalities are hilarious, she probably won’t be speaking as Phoebe Buffay or Valerie Cherish. She’s an alumna of the college, graduating with a B.S. in Biology in 1985 (consider this your trivia of the day!), so I’d be interested to hear her thoughts on stem cell research.
Marcia Gay Harden, University of Texas at Austin: Also an alumna, she can share stories of what it’s like to win an Academy Award, and star in Flubber.
Meryl Streep, Barnard College: She’s Meryl. Need I say more?
Wyclef Jean, Western Connecticut State University: Considering his recent efforts with Haiti relief, his words could prove to be inspiring. But if I were a student I’d really be hoping for an impromptu Fugees reunion.
What makes a good commencement speaker, Pop Watchers? If the goal is to inspire and motivate young people before they begin their lives as adults, who should those words come from? Political leaders and journalists have always been the heavy favorites, but what about someone you admire for different reasons, namely their ability to make you laugh? Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert both have given commencements speeches (at William & Mary and Knox College, respectively), and Matthew Fox delivered the address at Columbia University in 2007 (that could have held the secret to Lost!). After his heartfelt departure as the host of The Tonight Show, I’m surprised Conan O’Brien hasn’t gotten any offers (or maybe he has…). His “don’t be cynical” speech gets my vote for most fitting graduation sentiments. Also, with Betty White fever reaching unthinkable heights this year, why hasn’t anyone reached out to her? The former Golden Girl certainly could share a tip or two about how to remain relevant, over the years. Facebook movement!
Of course, will you really remember what your speaker said? My graduation was a year ago, and I can’t even repeat two words from our speaker, Dr. Benjamin Carson (or as I liked to call him, the guy Cuba Gooding Jr. played in a made-for-TV movie). That’s not because he was boring, though. I was just busy sweating under 500 pounds of black polyester, trying not to vomit from the smell of chewing tobacco coming from my fellow graduate to the left, while holding off on having my emotional breakdown long enough to remember not to fall during my five second walk across the stage.
What pop culture personality would you love to give your commencement address? Or, were you lucky enough to have a big name? Who would give the best advice to young adults?