Hail to Thee, Okoboji U! A Humor Anthology on Higher Education

By Mark C. Ebersole | Go to book overview

Graduationese

Andrew A. Rooney

The headline reads, GRADUATES TO FIND JOBS SCARCE.

How many times have you read that story?

I don't offhand recall any year that wasn't the most difficult there ever was for graduating seniors to find jobs.

Each of us, at one time or another in our lives, has had a tough time finding a job, so we're sympathetic. We want to help. We don't want to give them a job, but we want to help.

The speakers at high school and college graduation ceremonies want to help by giving advice. I've been reading excerpts from some of the speeches.

For some reason, giving a commencement address brings out the worst in a speaker. Otherwise bright, normal, nice people turn themselves into pompous asses for the day. Years ago I spoke to the graduating class at the high school I attended, and I shudder to think what I told them and what my attitude was while I did it.

Pompous speeches are not necessarily the speaker's fault. That's what a commencement speech is supposed to be. The speaker is there to give the ceremony some importance so he or she has to say some important-sounding things.

(I don't know who makes the decision about whether to call it "graduation" or "commencement." There's a big difference in attitude between the two words. "Graduation" suggests students have finished with something and "commencement" suggests they're just starting.)

President A. Bartlett Giamatti of Yale University gave one of the speeches I read. Except for the fact that he uses the "A." that way for his name, Dr. Giamatti is a brilliant, down-to-earth scholar. Normally what I see of his writing is so much smarter than I am that I'm discouraged by it, so naturally I was happy to note that he's only human. When he wrote this, he fell into the rhythm of the traditional graduation speech cliché, proving he's mortal.

There are some easily identifiable clues by which a graduation address can be detected.

First, the speaker starts with some light, often deprecating remark about either himself or commencement speeches in general. Dr. Giamatti did that:

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Hail to Thee, Okoboji U! A Humor Anthology on Higher Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction xi
  • A Short History of Higher Education 1
  • Solemnity, Gloom and the Academic Style: A Reflection 7
  • How to Get In 10
  • The Rich Scholar 14
  • Off to College 18
  • Gather Round, Collegians 21
  • Hail to Thee, Okoboji! 26
  • Wherefore Art Thou Nittany? 27
  • University Days 29
  • University Days 34
  • Taste of Princeton 39
  • Hell Only Breaks Loose Once 41
  • Hell Only Breaks Loose Once 45
  • Hell Only Breaks Loose Once 47
  • Hell Only Breaks Loose Once 51
  • Hell Only Breaks Loose Once 57
  • Hell Only Breaks Loose Once 63
  • Professor Pnin 72
  • The Rivercliff Golf Killings 76
  • Two Limericks 84
  • Professor Tattersall 86
  • Report on the Barnhouse Effect 93
  • Report on the Barnhouse Effect 105
  • Report on the Barnhouse Effect 107
  • Report on the Barnhouse Effect 112
  • Report on the Barnhouse Effect 114
  • Report on the Barnhouse Effect 117
  • Handy-Dandy Plan to Save Our Colleges 122
  • Jocelyn College 128
  • Reforming Yale 133
  • The Groves of Academe: Deep, Deep Words 135
  • Survey of Literature 143
  • Shakespeare Explained 144
  • The Shakespeare Interview 147
  • Professor Gratt 152
  • The Cliché Expert Testifies on Literary Criticism 153
  • Great Poets 158
  • Webley I. Webster: Wisdom of the Ages 164
  • The Immortal Hair Trunk 166
  • How to Understand Music 169
  • 1776 and All That. the First Memorable History of America 172
  • If He Scholars, Let Him Go 183
  • The Truth About History 185
  • The Truth About History 188
  • The Universe and the Philosopher 191
  • My Philosophy 193
  • My Philosophy 196
  • My Philosophy 198
  • My Philosophy 199
  • My Philosophy 200
  • Science 203
  • Philosopher 205
  • Mr. Science 208
  • One Very Smart Tomato 210
  • Botanist, Aroint Thee! Or, Henbane by Any Other Name 212
  • Nonsense Botany 213
  • Book Learning 218
  • Prehistoric Animals of the Middle West 219
  • Prehistoric Animals of the Middle West 224
  • A Pure Mathematician 228
  • Thinking Black Holes Through 231
  • The Purist 234
  • Theoretical Theories 235
  • Professor Piccard 235
  • How Newton Discovered the Law of Gravitation 237
  • Parlez-Vous Presidentialese? 252
  • The Secret Life of Henry Harting 255
  • Marshyhope State University 265
  • The Degree 276
  • President Robbins of Benton 282
  • My Speech to the Graduates 286
  • Graduationese 289
  • Grooving with Academe 292
  • An Old Grad Remembers 294
  • The Cultured Girl Again 297
  • Alumni News 299
  • Twenty-Fifth Reunion 302
  • The Final Final Exam - A Sentimental Education 304
  • Turning Back to the Campus 314
  • Improbable Epitaph 316
  • Acknowledgments 317
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