THE BLOG
05/08/2013 12:27 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2013

Graduation Day

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The chaplain begins the commencement by offering ambiguous praise of assorted higher powers without really endorsing any one over another. Next, the president reviews the superlatives of the graduating class. One student patented a way to make shoes out of used tea bags; another was involved in brokering a Kardashian Twitter truce; and, yet another was at work on the unabridged history of the Falkland Islands. It is all so inspiring. Finally, the class president takes the stage.

He is a nice kid, but not very bright. As expected, his speech pursues a sentimental tone. "We only made it by working together!" he states emphatically, even though he actually knows only about 2 percent of his fellow graduates. He continues with some vapid generalizations about the Class of 2013, most likely adduced from an intensive study of his three roommates, and then challenges the Class of 1953 to a game of beer pong at the frat house. "But bring your ID," he adds with a wink, "because we card everyone."

Members of the faculty shift in their seats and wonder whether Socrates was ever this annoyed with Plato. Eventually, the Commencement Speakers approach the podium. The first to speak is the trustees' selection: an alumnus of the University who invented an especially unscrupulous financial derivative before retiring to the Cayman Islands. Due to his donation of $10 million to the school, he is now referred to as a "friend." (For $20 million, you can become a "buddy"; or, for $50 million, an "intimate.")

He rambles on about a professor he once had, Dr. Irwin A. Terwilliger, before offering unsolicited comments on the propriety of co-ed institutions. All of this reminds him that there are now females on campus and in his midst -- "gals" is what he calls them -- and so he fixes on one in the front row. "What are you going to major in?" he asks. Unsure how to respond, she explains that she is now -- actually right now -- in the act of graduating from college, meaning that she has already majored in something. And it was English, she concedes. He offers an avuncular chuckle and insists that she should major in something practical -- like business. The class president gives him a standing ovation.

Meanwhile, the students' choice of speaker begins by observing that the world is "totally wigged out right now." He utters gratuitous profanities, not noticing the young children in strollers and blue-haired grandmothers (in their own strollers), and then for some reason insists that they always wear sunscreen. But not the kind with toxins in it; and not the sort made by beggar children in Madagascar. Only fair-trade sunscreen. More importantly, he assures them, all of life's lessons can be found in the collected works of Dr. Seuss. If you know about cats and hats and boats and goats, you truly can change the world.

This was lost on the faculty who were still wondering who -- and what -- this person was. The program listed him as "Bug 'N' Out," but that could have been a typo. The upper-middle class suburban parents in the audience were visibly uncomfortable as Bug 'N' (Mr. Out?) celebrated the power of education by boasting that he was rich without even graduating high school. Actually, he "never had time for all that bullshit," as he put it, because he was busy making "mad beats." He drops a "Peace out!" and does a back-flip off the stage.

The provost restores order and initiates the torturous exercise of reading the name of every graduate. By the time we reach the "G"s, people are beginning to lose patience. As usual, the elderly Professor Molasses mangles the pronunciation of names with more than three vowels. But, to be fair, it didn't help that some had changed their names prior to graduation just so Molasses would have to read combinations like "Hue G. Rection" and "I. M. Annass."

Eventually, well into the seventh hour, Molasses utters the name "Zane Zywoski." Someone taps the shoulder of the dozing president who springs to the podium to confer upon the graduates all the "rights and privileges" (whatever that means) associated with their newly-acquired $200,000 pieces of paper. The tassels go from right to left and the beach balls fly. You can feel the promise in the air. Oh, the places you'll go!

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