I was one year off from having Jon Stewart has my college commencement speaker.
The host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show is a fellow William & Mary grad, about 20 or so years ahead of me, and he delivered the 2004 commencement address. I graduated in 2005.
We juniors were a bit frustrated.
Granted, some of us did get to see him the fall of our sophomore year, when he gave a free Q&A at William & Mary Hall as part of that year’s Homecoming festivities. That was fun. I remember him alienating half his audience by going off on an anti-fraternity and sorority tangent.
“I am not your brother,” he told members of the frat he used to belong to, before later back-pedaling just a bit to assure everyone that Greek life does have some positive benefits. That might have eased some of the distraught looks he was receiving from his fans.
He would’ve been one heck of an entertaining commencement speaker. I’m not even one of his bigger fan.
I gave up on The Daily Show after the studio audience kept annoying me by cheering any criticisms of Republicans, like politics were some kind of sporting event or a contest between good and evil. As someone who’s generally misanthropic when it comes to federal-level politics, I prefer more balance in my political satire.
But Stewart’s a funny, smart guy. From the transcript I read and from what I heard, he gave an excellent speech to my slightly-elders.
So what was in store for the Class of 2005? How do you top a famous comedian for a commencement speaker?
Apparently, you don’t even try.
Our commencement speaker was none other than W&M President Timothy J. Sullivan.
The man we had seen for the past four years was our special “guest” speaker at graduation.
Sullivan was retiring that year, and he was certainly a well-liked president—a good guy all around, as far as I could tell.
But still, while other colleges and universities brought in all sorts of dignitaries with interesting backgrounds to impart precious wisdom to our peers across the country, we got to listen to the same man we’d been listening to all along—one year after Jon “The Daily Show” Stewart.
All I remember of Sullivan’s speech is when he welcomed us into the ranks of “educated people,” thereby inadvertently insulting all the adult relatives in the audience who didn’t have their bachelor’s degrees.
I suppose if you keep talking long enough, you’re bound to insult someone sooner or later.
Maybe I should keep my books short.
Oh, wait. The second Earths in Space is clocking in at 115,000+ words. Oops. Guess I’ll just have to insult someone.