Thoughts on CMC’s Graduation, May 15

  • The primary purpose of the graduation speaker is to reassure the parents in the audience that the 200K+ that they spent on their college education was worth it. The speaker's impressiveness helps with this but they also should stick to one of a few topics: discuss the impressiveness of the students, the value of their education, the challenges of the broad world and how their sparkling degree helps them to meet these challenges head on, or how their education prepares them for a life of success, just like the speaker. Henry Kravis was the speaker today, and I have all the respect in the world for his ability to turn around companies and improve their management, but his speech didn't fit the above criteria. Instead he decided to give lots of advice, in short bursts. He also mixed in current events terms like "iPad" and "Obama" to keep people on their toes. I thought it was pretty bad but the bar and expectations for graduation speeches are pretty low. He got a standing ovation.
  • Pretty much everyone from Kravis to Pam Gann to William Robelo-Lara either downplayed the amount of work that goes into getting a degree or played up the amount of drinking they or the students did at college. Andy says it's because it's impressive that you can drink and still get good grades. I think that it's an attempt to reframe the relevant status game from "who gets the best grades" to "who can party hardest." Because we can delude ourselves about partying hard but it's difficult to delude ourselves about GPA, especially when the Summa Cum Laude students are wearing special tassels. It's partly self defense. And, in the big picture, Kravis did just fine after school even though he did pretty terribly while he was here.
  • Airhorns! People blow airhorns because they want to show everyone else that they care about the student that's graduating. Unfortunate. I'd prefer something more subtle, or more awesome, like releasing doves into the air, co-ordinating an Air Force flyover with my name being read. Surely there are better ways to show that you care about someone.
  • Another common graduation failure is that speakers don't coordinate. Everyone starts their speech like they're the first person to get to the podium. If you're not the first speaker you don't need as much of a hook, because everyone's on the same team. Just say your bit and leave the stage before you think you should.

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