Day 289: See Stephen Colbert give the Northwestern commencement speech

June 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

Stephen Colbert receives his honorary degree from President Schapiro.

Today, one of my heroes – Stephen Colbert – addressed myself and the numerous other graduates of Northwestern University’s Class of 2011.

When I graduated from the University of Portland last year, our keynote speaker was the co-founder of CostCo. And don’t get me wrong, he gave a great speech. He talked about the $1 CostCo hotdog deal and the benefits of buying in bulk. But he couldn’t compare with Colbert.

Before him we sat, dressed in our ridiculous regalia, looking like wizards and witches of Middle Earth. As master’s candidates, we were forced to wear robes with drooping, bottomless sleeves – perfect for storing cell phones, keys and sunglasses. At least we didn’t have to don the pouffy hats of the PhD candidates, which looked like turrets from an Arabian castle.

While reading through Colbert’s accolades, the presenter introducing Stephen made the mistake of pronouncing his show, the Colbert Report, with a hard “t”, as in rhyming with retort, thus prompting Stephen to exit the stage in fit of mock outrage. He then proceeded to give what was quite likely the best commencement speech ever. I was so engrossed I hardly noticed the intersections of sweat drops zig-zagging across my torso in the midday heat. The speech can be seen in its entirity here:

I felt that the part about allowing your dreams to change and evolve particularly resonated with me, especially at a time in which I feel like my life goals rotate on a daily basis. Somehow he found the perfect balance of comedic and inspirational.

A special congratulations to Stephanie for her graduation today. For myself it was a bit anticlimactic, seeing as I have to start classes for my final quarter on Monday. But I didn’t mind suiting up early. Colbert was worth it.

Do you remember who spoke at your college graduation?


§ 2 Responses to Day 289: See Stephen Colbert give the Northwestern commencement speech

  • Marjory Morford says:

    I thought of you when I read this post by Seth Godin.

    Who pays for the news media?

    It’s easy to act as though the news media is something that is done to us. Some alien force, projected onto all of us, pushed out by them.

    Of course, that’s not true. It’s something we buy, something we pay for.

    We’re paying for superficial analyses, talking points, shouting heads, *****gate of the moment, herd journalism and silly local urgencies instead of important international trends. We’re paying for fast instead of good. We believe we’re paying for hard questions being asked, but we’re not getting what we’re paying for.

    We might pay with a dollar at the newsstand, but we’re probably paying with our attention, with attention that is turned into ad sales.

    Too often, we fail to stop and say, “Wait, I paid for that?”

    Almost everything else we buy is of far higher quality than it was twenty years ago. The worst car you could buy then was a Yugo… clearly we’ve raised the bar at the bottom. Is the same thing true of your news?

    As the number of outlets and channels has exploded, media companies have faced a choice. Some have chosen to race to the bottom, to pander to the largest available common denominator and turn a trust into a profit center. A few have chosen to race to the top and to create a product actually worth paying for.

    I fear that the race to the bottom will continue, but it’s hard to see how anyone could be happy winning it.

    Their civic obligations aside, it’s up to us to decide what to buy.

    I trust that you will be at the top.

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