Speakers make graduation memorable, not always for good

This is an open letter to whoever chooses the commencement speaker.

Every semester, students from, the four schools at Oswego State say goodbye to their undergraduate careers and embark on the great journey of life. Traditionally, the great gateway to the ‘real world’ has been commencement. This ceremony is the height of pomp and circumstance, complete with a procession, robes and trumpets. Whether or not students agree with the ceremony component of graduation, most still go through with it to please their parents, who, more than likely, helped in paying for the sheet of paper that proved something was accomplished during the years attending Oswego. The students will grumble about having to stay a whole week after classes are over just to walk across the stage while their name is read (and hopefully, read correctly) instead of starting that life they’ve heard so much about.

But the part of graduation everyone is dreading is the featured speaker. Personally, I have heard horror stories of speakers who have droned on and on about their accomplishments and then proceeded to attempt to give practical advice to the graduates about the world beyond the comfort of college. They fill their speech with tired clichés, such as how students shouldn’t take their college years for granted because this is as good as it gets. They swear the real world is not as scary as they think the students think it is. And the speakers make corny jokes about how the new graduates should expect the bills to come in any day. All of this contributes to depression for the students and they are once again reminded about how they will not find any jobs in their field, and more than likely, will be a cashier at the Gap.

This is when you come in, whomever picks the commencement speaker. You can help make graduation something to look forward to by picking someone interesting and engaging to be the speaker for the Class of 2011 commencement ceremony. You owe it to your future donors.

I have no doubt the selection process is a careful one, keeping in mind several requirements and objectives from the administration. I also have no doubt you are keeping the students in mind when choosing someone. And most importantly, you are probably very aware of how long the ceremony is going to be, depending on who you invite.

But even with all these considerations, something could slip and the result will be a five-hour ceremony featuring a two-hour speech about the prospects of the housing markets in seven years. A little research beyond the resume could be just the thing from saving us all from another horrid and clichéd graduation ceremony. One of the main things I’ve learned during my time at Oswego State is the advantage of new technology and media. With YouTube, you could easily check if the person you’ve looked into has had any other previous experience as a graduation speaker. This way you can see them in the heat of the action and know exactly what you are getting the Class of 2011 in to.

Another route I suggest is not being afraid of being shameless. Once again, returning to the emphasis of new media, why not start a Facebook campaign to get an interesting celebrity or other famous individual to come and speak; it worked for "Saturday Night Live" trying to get Betty White. Why not try the same method for one of the most important days of the year for Oswego State?

I hope you do not take offense to what I’ve suggested here in this open letter. I just want to make sure I’m not falling asleep during the ceremony, and to make sure I am home before sunset. But to be completely honest, don’t you want that too?


A concerned member of the Class of 2011.

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