Rough Outline for Worst Commencement Address Possible

For the Class of 2014 and beyond


  1. Start by reminding the graduates of their mortality. “All of you will die, some soon-ish—from car accidents and leukemia, and a few from totally avoidable things like suicide, rock climbing accidents... Yes, I will outlive a good handful of you.”
  2. Get immediately to the meat of your advice, your main point. For instance: “The most important things in life are to floss regularly, have change on hand for parking meters, floss your pets’ teeth or have it done professionally, keep a tidy house, take notes and make to-do lists, secure health and life insurance policies, learn Excel, use a fluoride rinse, save for retirement, and modulate your voice and the content of your speech according to your environment. And have a well-designed, responsive website. Master these things and then you can soar.”
  3. Give examples from your own life that do not seem to illustrate your earlier advice at all and, in fact, seem mostly about the eight months you spent in Africa collecting electric fish for your neurobiology research in graduate school.
  4. Ask for their help. “Do any of you have some money I could borrow, just like $50 or $60 bucks? Also, if any of you are headed for a job in the San Francisco area, message me.” Pantomime typing or thumb texting.
  5. Refer to the divisions between factions of the graduating class (Greek vs. non-Greek, along racial lines, men vs. women, scholarship recipients vs. no-need richies) and point out that the divide between them will only widen from here on out, exponentially. Repeat the word “exponentially.”
  6. Ask each graduate to look to his/her left, then to his/her right.
  7. Pull a Teresa Heinz (John Kerry’s wife) and begin to shift between various languages, solemnly. Also, make references to as many unsuccessful presidential candidates from the 70's, 80's, ad 90's as you can think of, while laughing softly and wryly.
  8. Insinuate that you have slept with the dean of the College of Engineering. Make a C++ programming joke.
  9. Spend a few minutes discussing the relative merits of the different branches of the U.S. military.
  10. Ask the class to hold hands with their neighbors and join you in the singing of the national anthem. When it gets to the end, interrupt to admonish the black students for getting too creative with their trills and runs.
  11. Ask the students, their families, and the gathered faculty and visitors to remember this moment forever, for it will never come again. Thank them and sit down in a different chair than you were sitting in before, maybe in engineering dean’s lap?