Ira Glass, host of This American Life, which airs on public radio stations, gave the commencement speech at Goucher College in Baltimore on May 18 when he declared he opposes all commencement speeches - even as he delivers one.
"I believe that it is a doomed form," Glass said right as he took to the podium. "Commencement speakers give stock advice which is then promptly ignored. The central mission of a commencement speech is in itself ridiculous, to inspire at a moment which needs no inspiration. Look at yourselves at this moment, something incredible is happening right now."
Glass' grandmother graduated from Goucher, and she wore her sorority key every day until the day she died, he said.
Then he revealed a personal detail connecting him with Goucher on a more intimate level.
"I lost my virginity in one of the dorms here," Glass said. "Not recently. I was 20 -- it was still an all-girls school."
Glass is a beloved journalist, but he told Goucher grads that he was a terrible writer when he started out in his first news reporting jobs. He said he reads about the student loan payments some grads are paying today, which are higher than his total monthly income was when he began working.
Later in the speech, he told a story about his Jewish grandparents running into Adolf Hitler in Germany in the 1930s. He said people always asked his grandmother why they didn't kill Hitler at that moment, to which his grandmother would respond "Because I didn't know!"
"We lurch forward in our lives. We try this. We try that. We make the best guesses that we can based on what we believe at the time," Glass said. "It is entirely possible that Goucher grads ... will get the chance to change the world and kill Adolf Hitler, and you will miss it."
Watch his whole speech to Goucher College grads in the video above.
Correction: An earlier version stated that Glass' grandmother cherished a "sorority" key; it was her Phi Beta Kappa society key. We regret the error.
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