Friday, April 1, 2011

Commencement Speeches: the Big Send Off or a Rip Off

Walter Cronkite spoke at my graduation. I don't remember a word. But that's okay because each graduation season the top speeches get circulated on the internet, so I can get my fill of clever lines that way -- without having to pay over $200,000 in tuition for the privilege.

I've always thought a high-profile commencement speaker is seen as a little gift to the parents who've footed the big bills. You know, they have bragging rights when they go home after graduation and can quote Bill Clinton or Malcolm Gladwell or even Toni Morrison.

There's an uproar in New Jersey because Rutgers is paying Ms. Morrison $30,000, the first time Rutgers has paid anyone to speak to graduates. The largest paper in New Jersey, the Star-Ledger, is appalled at Rutgers' choice, according to this editorial.

Why not have a student speak, or an impressive graduate who's willing to speak for free. Or somebody famous who so believes in the importance of education that the money isn't kept but is given to a scholarship fund.

But get this. Rutgers paid Snooki $32,000 to appear at a Q&A session about her reality show experience. At least Toni Morrison has won a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize.

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