Commencement Commotion!!

January16/ 2000

 Ah May … the month of pollen, 7-year locusts, and college commencement commotion.  I’m not sure which is more delightful but certainly “commencement commotion” is by far the most fun for folks like me who like to laugh at totally irrelevant  folks who take themselves QUITE seriously. Sure, I have a quite simple and incredibly economical solution to this seasonal brouhahahahaha; but first let’s examine the whole concept.

   My high school commencement speaker was A. Pernell Bailey.  He wrote a syndicated newspaper column “back then” entitled “Daily Bread”.  I have absolutely no idea what he said despite being totally sober and reasonably interested as I recall.  If he took a cheap shot at Halliburton I missed it.

   My UNC commencement speaker was Governor Bob Scott.  I am sure he said something “gubernatorial” and no doubt little Meg was on-hand … perhaps playing on the merry-go-round as she had a fascination with amusement rides even at an early age.  I don’t recall Governor Scott mentioning “abortion” or “homosexuals” but I was trying to catch the end of my tassel with my tongue and was not hanging on his every word.

   The two “best” commencement speakers in the Triangle in recent years have to be Phil Donohue at NC State and Ted Turner at UNC.  

   Phil slapped a death grip on the mike and went into full uber-Liberal rant as a mortified Mary Ann Fox looked on.  Did Chancellor Fox expect Philsie to read his personal journal of his and Marlo’s honeymoon?  You book Phil Donohue you are gonna get a full uber-Liberal rant … Phil’s a one-trick pony and that’s his one trick. There IS a reason that Berkeley hasn’t invited Rush Limbaugh.

   Ted Turner at UNC in the early 90s was truly one for the ages.  This was, I believe, pre-Jane and Ted was quite deep in his cups … hell, the boy was pie-eyed drunk on his ass.  He mumbled something totally unintelligible, grabbed his sizable honorarium and did a full Otis Campbell.  Chapel Hill historians show that incident as the first time anyone ever heard local Diety Bill Friday say “Holy Sh*t” at least loud enough for anyone to hear him.  Apparently Bill repeated his oath over one or more of Prince Tassel Loafers’ pratfalls over the past seven years but heck, who hasn’t?  

   “Graduating from college” IS a big deal.  It is a rite of passage for both parent and child.  It is a source of endless stereotypical comments and discussions from childbirth through the first time your child is “released into the custody of his/her parents”. For moi, the first day of college was more memorable than the last.

   As I stood on the balcony of Ehringhaus Dorm watching Ma & Pa Swagger drive away I recall swallowing quite hard and cursing whatever it was that was causing my eyes to water so at that moment. Four years later I did the whole cap and gown thingie and recall looking around for Bob Coleman to say good-by.  I never found him … I think he lives in Columbia SC and is in the bus building bizness.  If you are reading this Bob … “Good By and Good Luck Buddy!”

   Back to “Commencement Commotion” … “Commencement Commotion” is a seasonal “automatic” for local news media.  I put it in the category of “the airport sure is busy on Wednesday before Thanksgiving” stories.  There is no need to shoot new “B roll” or write new copy.  The scenario never changes.

First you got to get a gaggle of “student activists” … 

   Definition of “student activist” = spends 4-8 years hanging around campus financed by daddy’s money.  During that entire time he/she does not have a bowel movement of allow a comb or brush to touch their hair.  Spend majority of time protesting any organization or entity that assists “Dad” in acquiring the money being channeled to said “activist’s” welfare.  Design a course of study totally devoid of subjects with any marketable application in any of the top 100 countries on Earth.

   Finally after 4-8 years of mind altering discourse with other “student activists” and accumulating more parking tickets than credit hours … the University decides it’s time for it’s idealistic “activist” to become an officially unemployable “adult” and fly the academic nest.  As part of the deal to get rid of said “activist” the University administration agrees that he/she can serve on the most prestigious “Commencement Speaker Selection Committee” (CSSC) … Yippee! 

   Being on the prestigious CSSC is the Phi Beta Kappa of “campus activism”.  After 4-8 years of being totally irrelevant and having absolutely no influence on anyone or anything … a gracious University invariably turns over “Commencement” to the goofiest bats in its belfry … along with Bill Cosby’s booking agent’s cell phone number.

   Bet you didn’t know that Bill Cosby is America’s #1 commencement speaker.  Yep!  Cliff Huxtable hisownself is every Chancellor’s dream speaker … a minority beloved by all races, colors, creeds, and national origins … who is smart enough not to flatuate totally inappropriate bilge as soon as he puts on all that silly academic raiment. A Bill Cosby speech on Saturday will NOT mean a stack of nasty voice mails from University Trustees on Monday morning.   


Swagger Stumper

The character “The Virgin Connie Swales” appeared in what spoof movie”

Who were the two males leads in that movie?


   Did you know that a cottage industry has developed in the “commencement” industry?  Some Google nerd has catalogued EVERY human being on Earth.  

  • If you have EVER said the two words “Pro” and “Life” in a sentence in your life … you have an X by your name.  Apparently it also applies to SCRABBLE and crossword puzzles too. 
  • If you have EVER told or laughed at a “gay joke” (including any about Duke basketballers) … you cannot be a commencement speaker.    
  • If anyone in your immediate family, or in your cul-de-sac, has EVER owned one share of Halliburton stock … you cannot be a commencement speaker.
  • If anyone in your immediate family, or your child’s scout troop, is named Condelezza or Rummy or “Judge Clarence Thomas” … you cannot be a commencement speaker.

OK … BobLee’s solution to all this glorious silliness:

   Every major university has a “Jumbotron” … right?  Heck, Carolina even finally got one.  Set up “commencement” like a giant outdoor sports bar. The “Jumbotron” can be the primo “screen” for the speaker that all 27 of the “student activists” want.  Let’s guess Karl Marx, Fidel Castro, or The World’s Smartest Junior Senator From New York.  Hillary cuts a CD with the obligatory opening reference to Carrboro, Micheal Jordan, and “hating Duke” then 30 minutes of Bush-bashing with appropriate breaks for wild applause. … Meanwhile 99% of the rest of the graduating class can watch the speaker of THEIR choice at any of the HDTVs and giant NBA-size plasma screens scattered over the Greensward … choose from among Robin Williams, LeBron James, Newt Gingrich, Bishop Sheen, Seattle Slew, Jerry Springer, Giselle McKenzie, Jesse Helm’s UPS delivery guy, that redneck dude that Britney Spears married for three hours, or the culinary whizbang that invented pimento cheese.  Someone for everyone … No?

   The University buys a “package” like Direct TV.  The whole deal is pre-recorded and dialed in like watching porno at a Red Roof Inn … and, of course, no name of any commencement speaker you choose will appear on your diploma. 

   174,000 “octogenarians” were recently asked:  Did the choice of a “commencement speaker” have the slightest influence on your post-graduate life?  96% said “yeah … right!” and one old broad claimed she was carrying A. Pernell Bailey’s love child.

NEWMAN” was eaten by dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and also was a detective in Sharon Stone’s epic interrogation in Basic Instinct.  This one separated the “Pros” from the “wannabees”. “Maha”, of course, was standing tall when the smoke cleared. 

   BobLee spent Monday with Ol’ Fuzzy Zoeller at Old North State Club on Badin Lake … beautiful day and Fuzz and Swagger were in rare form. A scary combo for sure!

   We seem to be resolving most of the glitches with the new website.  Let us know if you are still having trouble.  Our “penetration” more than doubled and Ron Jeremy had nothing to do with it.

   Many readers reported that Humpy Wheeler used bunches of BobLee’s NASCAR material on JohnBoy and Billy … that’s what happens when you hit the nail squarely on the head.

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