A lot of colleges had great commencement speakers this year: NYU had former president Bill Clinton, Harvard had Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Fordham had NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, Spelman College had first lady Michelle Obama, Washington University at St. Louis had writer Elie Wiesel, and Northwestern had Stephen Colbert. It was quite an array of lively, accomplished luminaries from various fields this year.
Conan O’Brien, host of the late-night show “Conan,” was the commencement speaker at Dartmouth College. “All commencement speakers who shamelessly pander with cheap, inside references designed to get childish applause will be forced to apologize…” O’Brien said, as he delivered the address to the college’s class of 2011 this past Sunday. He said this as part of his “Conan Doctrine,” which also included upgrading all bachelor’s degrees to master's degrees. A video of the speech in its entirety can be found on Dartmouth’s YouTube page.
O’Brien definitely didn’t pander. His speech was refreshing—he used his classic humor and wit to get the graduates thinking about the good times they had and hard work they did over the past four years.
Recent grads are hearing a lot about the economy and lack of available jobs. Even Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, wrote an article titled “Dear Class of 2011: Good Luck… You're Really Going to Need It!” Huffington delivered the commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College on May 20.
O’Brien mentioned that it was his job to tell the class of 2011 “that life isn’t fair,” and he delivered hilarious jokes, like saying that the only places currently hiring are Panera Bread and Mexican drug cartels. But between the jokes, O’Brien actually offered practical advice: “Be patient,” something most grads haven’t heard as they struggle to find employment. He told everyone that now isn’t the time for negativity, and that taking risks can get you further. “Your path at 22 will not necessarily be your path at 32 or 42,” he said. “One’s dream is constantly evolving, rising and falling, changing course…and that's OK.” And that’s something every college student likes to hear.