In Lieu of a Graduation Speech

With no budget for a big-name graduation speaker, David Galef reports, U of All People turns to one of its own.

May 20, 2011

At U of All People, we don’t have the cachet or bucks to draw a big-name commencement speaker. Like so many other schools of the third water, we call on local politicians and businesspeople, some alum who runs a charity, or an announcer at a cable network. But this year, no one rose to the bait: an honorarium of $50 and lunch in the president’s room. One after another declined with thanks (some without thanks), to the point where we were desperate.

So we called the English department, figuring that one of the faculty there could produce an eloquent speech. “I understand that some of them even write a little poetry on the side,” added Provost Finkh in one of his futile attempts at jocularity.

And that’s how we ended up with Professor Ernest Twistwhistle. Though a longtime specialist in Victorian satirical funeral sermons, Professor Twistwhistle is also a self-described amateur versifier. He said he’d be happy to declaim at the commencement ceremony, though he made the provost up the deal to $75 and dinner at the Sizzler. Below is the full text of his speech. Most members of the campus community remain divided over its intent.


“My Address to the Undergraduates, May 17, 2011, Mainly in Trochaic and Iambic Dimeter”

On this grad-
Uation day,
I come highly
Paid to say:

Listen to these
And try to show
Some gratitude.

You’re the gen-
Eration that
Will soon get its
First crack at bat.

Go forth in
The world and make
One big splash.
Don’t be a fake.

Don’t just sit
There on the fence.
The difference.

Go for gusto.
Seek romance.
Make a fuss.
And take a chance.

To look at you
Makes me feel old,
And I don’t want
To seem a scold,

But don’t become
A lazy slob.
It’s tough out there.
You’ll need a job.

The future may
Seem bleak, I know,
Yet do not reap
Until you sow.

Try to give
More than you get.
Never make
A sucker bet.

Be firm of purpose.
Do not drift,
The race not won
Just by the swift.

Now, what else can
I yawn that’s true?
Only this:
May God bless you.


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


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