By Chuck Arnold
June 14, 1999 12:00 PM

Captive audiences

Okay, so it’s not a car. Or a job. But graduating college seniors across the land were rewarded for their four (or more) years of tussling for that tassel with words of wisdom—and wit—from guest speakers with celebrity degrees.

“Commencement addresses are usually collections of clichés…’Now that you’re a graduate, the world is your oyster.’ Can you imagine anything more revolting than that? Did you ever just look at an oyster and think, ‘I worked my tail off here to get that?’ ”


at Brandeis University

“Earlier this morning I had the opportunity to meet privately with a group of parents…They’re a little embarrassed about bringing it up, especially on such a happy occasion as this—nothing personal, they contend—but please, whatever you do after graduation, don’t move back home!”


the Democratic presidential hopeful, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“I know that everybody in the world is looking for the briefest commencement address…So I am not going to speak but a couple of hours.”


the author and poet, at Lafayette College

“I don’t care if you are sick of hearing it. I offer you one piece of advice on this most auspicious and joyful occasion: May the Force be with you.”


the voice of Darth Vaderin the Star Wars movies, at Vassar College

“When I was a student here, I applied four very specific work habits to every difficult assignment. One: Fear and dread. Two: Delay and stall. Three: Denial—’forget about it, it’s weeks away!’ Four: Do nothing until absolutely the last minute, the day before, and pull an all-nighter…. I guess I really hadn’t learned the value of preparedness. I was actually thinking about that this morning when I was writing this speech.”


at Boston University School for the Arts

“I know this is childish, but I just have to say, I think it’s so cool that Oprah has to listen to me.”


whose audience at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business commencement included guest Oprah Winfrey

“I asked Bert what to speak about, and he said, ‘Speak about 10 minutes.’ ”


the former President, after his introduction by his cousin, at Webster University

“I looked at the average age of all of you, and I thought, ‘They grew up with me.’ And I thought, ‘Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that Chrissy Snow would be your commencement speaker?’ ”


the former Three’s Company star, at National University

“It is not enough to wire the world if you short-circuit the soul…. Frankly, I still don’t understand how the picture gets from where I work to your television set. I call it a miracle and leave it at that.”


of NBC Nightly News, at The College of Santa Fe

“President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once gave the following advice to speakers. He said: Be sincere; be brief; be seated. Today, I will try to be all three.”


the former Treasury Secretary, at New York University

“I hope you realize how much pressure you put on a speaker when you give him a standing ovation before he’s said one word. The natural inclination is to say, ‘Thank you very much; this concludes my remarks,’ and just get out of here, because it doesn’t get any better than that.”


at the University of Richmond