High-Priced Diplomacy


Thanks to soaring tuitions, more colleges are now able to spend big bucks on high-profile graduation speakers. Here are "excerpts" from what I imagine will be this year's most expensive commencement remarks:

Author Sarah Palin - "One quick announcement before I begin, and I betcha you'll help me with this. Audio, video and other recording devices, including still cameras, are prohibited during my appearance and will be confiscated by campus security. Pistols and hunting knives are OK."

TV host Conan O'Brien - "I had a dynamite commencement speech prepared, but NBC owns the rights. So, let's just say I hope someday you all get the chance to work in a job you really love for seven months."

Super Celeb Oprah Winfrey - "It's just so special to be invited to speak here at The Oprah Winfrey School of Personality Management. I know you had many fine choices among commencement speakers and, as a token of my appreciation, on the count of three reach under your chairs where you'll each find an espresso maker as my special gift to you!"

Golfer Tiger Woods - "Following my two years at Stanford my father told me, 'Tiger, I don't care about your wild affairs with students and teachers, and I'm not concerned about the incidents on the driving range, the photos taken at the pool, or the rumors about you and the women's golf team. But remember my words, son, because later in life they'll help you make excellent TV commercials.'"

Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan - "I'm pleased to be here on this beautiful day. Some might describe today as partly cloudy. Others would argue that it is partly sunny. So, what are we to make of a day in which there is a mix of sun and clouds? Although I've never spoken publicly about the weather, I shall study it and get back to you. However, please don't quote me."

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke - "Many of you are saddled with student loans, credit card debt and diminished financial prospects. In response, we're introducing a new 100-dollar bill that incorporates many of the groovy graphics your generation favors. It will be available at local banks and other financial institutions."

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer - "It's great to be here at Arizona State. I realize some of your friends were turned away at the door today because they failed to carry proper student ID. We simply can't risk giving diplomas to those who haven't earned their way."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor - "Here's my advice for those important job interviews you've got lined up. Don't answer any questions. If pressed, say it wouldn't be fair to comment because, if hired, you might have to issue a ruling on the matter. Take it from me, once you get the job no one will remember anything you said in your interview anyway."

"SNL" star Kristen Wiig - "I turned down an invitation from Harvard so I could be here today; just kidding. I want to assure you that, despite the economy, you can do great things with your two-year community college degree; just kidding."

Twitter Chairman Jack Dorsey - "ur my tweeps. u2 r zzz? imho you'll b twitterific. 2day is twittastic. b4n."

Congressman John Boehner - "As you grow older, remember: (1) health care is a privilege for those of us who can afford it, (2) don't believe anything you hear on MSNBC, (3) use plenty of sunscreen."

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich - "Like me, many of you will soon be looking for work, so here's a tip: reality TV shows are fun and pay a lot. By the way, if any of you don't have enough credits to graduate, I know a guy who knows a guy who prints really good-looking diplomas."

Media Mogul Rupert Murdoch - "I'm pleased to announce that earlier today I completed my purchase of your school newspaper which, beginning tomorrow, will feature a daily bikini-clad professor on page six. Although the paper will no longer be distributed for free, rates will be significantly discounted for all students who are paid subscribers to The Wall Street Journal."

Vice President Joe Biden - "I know many of you are worried that you won't find jobs. The economy is a mess, and even qualified graduates are suffering. But take it from me, earning a college degree is still a big f---in' deal."

© Peter Funt. This column first appeared in The Boston Globe.

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