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Posted at 4:33 PM ET, 05/12/2010

Celebrity commencement speakers: Who's talking and who's on our wish list

By Jen Chaney

It's commencement season again. And as always, sprinkled among the distinguished political figures, noted scholars and community leaders who have been called upon to deliver inspiring graduation speeches, we can easily find a fair share of celebrities.

Shouldn't this man be asked to speak at a college commencement? (AP)

Today, for example, Alec Baldwin delivered the keynote speech during New York University's commencement at Yankee Stadium, where he reportedly stressed the importance of commitment to a crowd of freezing cold, soon-to-be grads. The verdict, at least according to this blog post? His remarks were "cute."

Baldwin isn't the first entertainment type to try to impart words of wisdom this graduation season. Actor/activist/recently arrested protestor Danny Glover spoke at Utah State University on Saturday. “Maybe with all our force, with all our conviction, with all our humility — and with all our understanding — we can make something get done," he told the class of 2010 at USU, where he sparked some criticism for not putting his hand on his heart during the National Anthem but still earned a standing ovation after finishing his speech.

And on Sunday, author John Grisham stood before mortarboard-wearers at the University of North Carolina and said: "Of course, the future is yours. Who else would want it? Take it. You can have it. We’ve had our chance and made a royal mess of things. I’m sure you can do better. I expect you will." Thanks, Grisham ... I think?

Even if you're not terribly inspired by these examples, not to worry. In the coming weeks, other glittery personalities will get their chance to do the "Oh, the Places You Will Go" routine, including Meryl Streep (May 17 at Barnard College), Lisa Kudrow (May 23 at Vassar College), Wyclef Jean (May 23 at Western Connecticut State) and Marcia Gay Harden (May 23 at the University of Texas -- Austin).

It's an impressive line-up. But somehow, it feels like some potentially excellent famous graduation speakers have been neglected. Here are six I would love to see receive an honorary degree after sharing their considerable life experience with the class of 2011.

Betty White. Apparently, we all want to see Betty White do everything, from host the Oscars to make an awesome commencement speech. At least one Facebook campaign is, naturally, already underway in support of just that. (Hey, it got her the SNL hosting gig. Maybe it will work again.)

Robert Downey, Jr.: Comeback stories are always inspiring, especially for young people who need to learn that it's possible to bounce back from adversity. And Downey tends to give good speeches. Plus, how awesome will it be to hear "Iron Man" blaring over the PA system after your college president introduces the keynote speaker?

Vince Vaughn: College seniors want someone to tell it like it is. Vaughn seems like a prime, witty candidate for that. And the last line of his speech is pretty much written for him: "So in closing, class of 2011: You're so money, and you don't even know it."

George Clooney: Another smart, respected guy who would undoubtedly give a candid, funny and positive speech that motivates grads to make the world a better place. Another plus: he would somehow find a way to make a tassel look dashing.

Dave Chappelle: He was the most beloved comedian in America five years ago. Then he dropped a million-dollar deal and walked away from Hollywood. Surely Chappelle has some astute observations -- and a few choice, bleeped profanities -- to share with kids who think money and fame are the equivalent of real-world success. Can't some accredited institution give him an honorary degree in hilarity and make this happen already?

Jane Lynch: Honestly, I just want to hear her give a graduation speech completely in character as Sue Sylvester. Of course, if grads actually follow her faux advice, the world could become a very frightening, track suit-infested place.

Which celebrity would you like to see behind a commencement ceremony podium? Tell us in the comments.

By Jen Chaney  | May 12, 2010; 4:33 PM ET
Categories:  Celebrity Life Lessons, Pop Culture  
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I'd love to see Mel Brooks give a commencement speech.

Posted by: ras4q | May 12, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Alton Brown was the commencement speaker at my daughter's graduation from the Univ. of GA. She declined to be inspired by emcee of Iron Chef.

Posted by: pras40 | May 12, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Jack Bauer

Posted by: angelos_peter | May 13, 2010 12:57 AM | Report abuse

Stephen Colbert

Posted by: kbockl | May 13, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Ooo - or Sarah Silverman

Posted by: kbockl | May 13, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Daniel Craig....sigh.

I've attended several commencements where Linus Pauling was the main speaker. He was fantastic!

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 13, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Oh man, great suggestions here- both in the post and in comments.

Dave Chappelle did actually come to my (small liberal arts) college in 2000. However, he came to perform standup...during Parent's Weekend. I was sitting between my mother and father when he opened with the line, "Boy, you picked the wrong motherf****r for Parent's Weekend!" What followed was twenty or so minutes of the filthiest- and funniest- standup I have ever heard. He did a hell of a job, but I still wonder who in God's name thought to book him for that particular event.

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | May 13, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

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