Graduation Day, U of All People

The president delivers his commencement message to the graduating students, and David Galef is there.


May 14, 2009

To the U of All People Graduating Class of 2009, from your President:

As I look upon your upturned faces, so eager to escape this sweltering gymnasium, I can’t help but mop my brow in sympathy. Next year, we hope to hold graduation in the building where it historically belongs, the Kohl E. Seam Memorial Coliseum, unfortunately smoke-damaged after last week’s arson attempt. We live, as I believe someone once said, in interesting times. Let me take this juncture to note how sorry we are that we had to cancel the appearance by Senator Jigsup, who’s currently arguing against his extortion charges before the state court with every chance of appeal. Such short notice, too. He will be -- nay, is -- sorely missed.

This august occasion, though it takes place in May, always reminds me of the story about the tortoise and the hare, or maybe it was Achilles -- at any rate, some competition lost in the mists of antiquity but whose outcome is still cited today. In other words than the ones I’m using, think of the power of positively thinking, slow and steady is the key, and the race is not always to the swift but sometimes to the federally subsidized schools such as U of All People, who managed this year to graduate almost half its class.

To those of you about to escape our unrepaired gates: During the last four years, possibly five to seven, you’ve had the chance to make new friends, learn several trades, and ignite new passions -- and whoever started that fire in the coliseum, you know who you are, we’ll soon know who you are, and if you see me right after this ceremony, we’ll see about lessening the charges.

But I digress. Who are you as a group, anyway? Statistics tell us that 32 percent of you own a car about to be repossessed, 55 percent of you will still be paying off your college debt in 2030, and almost all of you have a lot to be proud of and a lot to answer for. But to take the long view: 100 percent of you will be dead within a century, by which time most of your student loans should be repaid. Then again, these are times of economic hardship, one reason that we’ve had no food in the student cafeteria for the last month and furloughs for half the faculty. That makes it all the more important to bear up under adversity and remember those less fortunate than we are -- I'm thinking of those at Kalamazoo Kandlewick Kollege, especially after the repercussions from that unfortunate hazing incident.

I see what my speech writer has put in here, and I should have read this draft before I got to the podium.

Let me put it another way. For you, this is both the end of one era and the beginning of another. Need similar filler to eke out the speech. Remember, as you depart from this institution of higher learning, that you’re not really leaving U of AP, especially if you’ve got course credits to make up this summer.

Remember, also, to repay the debts you have incurred while here, including library fines and parking tickets. Better omit the joke about registrar fees.

So. To sum up, in the end, inclusion. Thus. Congratulations to all the proud parents, guardians, and parole officers who made this event possible. Brief thanks to the faculty, those of who who’ve shown up for this event. Please return your rental gowns to the booth in Borrow Hall. You have till five o’clock to reclaim your security deposits.


David Galef is happily employed as an English professor at Montclair State University, not, thankfully, at U of All People.


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