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A Commencement Mulligan Stew


Ellen DeGeneres with Harry Connick, Jr. and Tulane President Scott Cowan at graduation May 16. (AP/Bill Haber)


Oprah Winfrey with Duke president Richard Brodhead at the May 10 graduation. (AP/The News and Observer, John Rottet)

As graduation season grinds to an end, we've gathered advice and wisdom from this year's commencement speeches by Boldface Names and put them into one all-purpose address. Read and learn from the masters:

Thank you to all the graduating class of 2009. I realize most of you are hung over and have splitting headaches and haven't slept since Fat Tuesday, but you can't graduate till I finish, so listen up. (1) I am honored that -- notwithstanding the fact you've heard me once -- you've invited me back a second time. (2) Coming here was a real no-brainer! After all, I can see New Jersey from my house! (3)


Michelle Obama with Jasmine Williams at the Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter High School Commencement June 3. (Marvin Joseph/TWP)

I get a number of invitations to speak at commencements, which I find a bit puzzling. A practitioner, like me, of the dismal science of economics -- and it is even more dismal than usual these days -- is not usually the first choice for providing inspiration and uplift. (4) I don't know about you, but I personally felt vindicated when Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness, where no filly has gone in 85 years, up against eight stallions. I can't say I exactly identified with her, but I was very pleased that she brought home the black-eyed Susans. (5)

For those of you who may be doubting and questioning yourselves ... trust me: I know how you feel. (6) When I was in high school I was a pretty reckless guy. Let's just say I wasn't the staid and somber figure that stands before you now. (7) This college allowed an impetuous, testosterone-laced youngster to express himself in ways that other institutions would have considered unacceptable. (8)

I know that I am supposed to say something meaningful to you. Maybe some good advice for you to always remember. ... Take, for instance, what has worked for me: Wigs. Tight clothes. Push-up bras. High-heel shoes. (9) Have you guys seen the movie "The Graduate"? Well, the real world is nothing like that movie. When you leave here today, your parents' hot friend will not try and have sex with you. Not going to happen. (10) People ask me all the time, "What is the secret of success?" I give them always the short version. I say, "Number 1: Come to America. Number 2: Work your butt off. And number 3: Marry a Kennedy." (11)

Years from now, you may not be able to recite the lines of poetry from your English textbooks; you may not be able to do the complex math problems you finally conquered -- but you will be able to say, "No matter what is put in front of me, I can do it." (12) My greatest lessons have come from my work: Talking to murderers, doing makeovers, learning about flesh-eating diseases have all been great growing tools for me. (13)

If you need a 6-2 forward with a decent jumper, you know where I live. (14)

Key:
1. Ellen DeGeneres, Tulane, May 16.
2. Joe Biden, Wake Forest, May 18.
3. Katie Couric, Princeton, June 1.
4. Ben Bernanke, Boston College, May 22.
5. Hillary Clinton, Barnard, May 18.
6. Michelle Obama, Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter High School, June 3.
7. Rahm Emanuel, George Washington, May 18.
8. Eric Holder, Columbia, May 19.
9. Dolly Parton, Tennessee, May 8.
10. Jimmy Fallon, College of Saint Rose, May 9.
11. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Southern California, May 15.
12. Jill Biden, Kingsborough Community College, June 12.
13. Oprah Winfrey, Duke, May 10.
14. Barack Obama, Notre Dame, May 17.



By The Reliable Source  |  June 15, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
 
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