Valedictory exercises give universities a chance to hand out awards and thank people before the main graduation – and they’re not always well attended, but this year’s speaker drew a huge crowd to the University of Virginia -- and as Sandy Hausman reports -- Stephen Colbert did not disappoint.
At a reception beforehand, Colbert was gracious, posing for photos with more than a hundred students and parents who were clearly pumped. We spoke with Ben Hemenway, Danielle McKia, Erin Abdel-- razaq and Ariana Parsons.
"He’s hilarious … we got a good one!"
A short time later, Colbert wowed the crowd with his humor and his command of the local lingo:
"I’d also like to thank the Board of Visitors … any century now, and that’s just one of the unique, dignified terms … a lawn. Instead of saying we are members … which begs the eternal question WahooWhy?"
Colbert, whose a native of South Carolina, spent his first two years of college at an all men’s school Hampton Sydney, but he often came to Charlottesville to meet girls, and hoped to transfer.
"And you know this is an impressive institution, because it rejected my application. Yes – in the spring of 1984 … essay in after the rest of the application … which was none, because I never sent it, so today, President Sullivan, I would like to submit this address as my essay … am I in?"
He congratulated the students, noting they were in good company as UVA grads:
"You got Woodrow Wilson, Robert Kennedy … I rarely saw at Hampton Sydney … Creepy Eddie"
And he took time to offer some advice – which he guessed the students might not take.
"This week’s Time Magazine called you lazy, entitled narcissists …your yolos. Your generation needs everything to be about you, and that’s very upsetting to us baby boomers … we made the last 50 years all about us… deep fried nearly everything in the ocean. It may seem that all that’s left … sailing the coast of Ohio."
So, Colbert concluded, take the hard road to what you want the world to be.
"And don’t worry if we don’t approve of your choices. In our benign self absorption … you do not owe the previous generation anything. Thanks to us, you owe it to the Chinese."