Pomp. Circumstance. Celebrity. Every June, Northwestern’s senior class demands a commencement ceremony defined not only by the sense of community, tradition and accomplishment that the turning of the tassel provides, but also by the semi-famous to super-famous individual that the administration ropes into speaking at Ryan Field. Speculation as to who will talk this year becomes more frenzied with each passing week. Will the Class of 2008 get a C-list alum such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus (2007), a venerated media figure such as Tom Brokaw (2004) or someone… cooler? Below, our musical ruminations.
Why haven’t we heard about this year’s commencement speaker yet?
Carly Simon — “Anticipation”
Last time around, we found out about Louis-Dreyfus way back in November, although she did let it slip while on Regis & Kelly. But this year it’s May and we haven’t heard yet, keeping us speculating about who will deliver those essential words of wisdom. As Carly Simon says it, “anticipation is making [us] wait” so that we can inevitably talk about how irrelevant this year’s speaker is.
We hear rumors it may be Oprah
Notorious B.I.G. — “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems”
Rumors abound that Northwestern’s 150th commencement speaker could be none other than Oprah Winfrey herself. If she could say anything in her speech, maybe the Chicago icon could teach us how to make all of that money she has. The woman’s a billionaire, but that doesn’t mean her life is perfect. She’s had her share of setbacks in the past year — from the scandal at her South African school for girls to being beat out by Ellen DeGeneres in opinion polls to her beloved dog passing away. Still, even though for Biggie it was “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems,” it must be pretty good to be Oprah.
We also hear rumors that Mayor Daley is the backup
Inner Circle – “Bad Boys”
Always skating on the edge of a scandal, Richard M. Daley has run Chicago since 1989. During this time, he has leveled historic parts of this city and replaced them with condos in the hopes of obtaining the Olympics and proving that he is a bad boy. So while the city looks a little shinier, thousands have been kicked to the curb as a result of Daley’s gentrification plan. When you hold him up next to Oprah, who gives people cars, he seems like a pretty poor replacement for Commencement. (When we asked him about it, his office declined to comment on possible speaker appearances, citing security concerns.) So thanks a lot, Dick, but if we can’t have Oprah, we’ll just take Jerry Springer.
Well, we know one person who won’t be there
Gnarls Barkley — “Crazy”
If you don’t know who Rev. Jeremiah Wright is by now, you should probably crawl out of that cave. The infamous Reverend was supposed to receive an honorary degree at this year’s commencement, but needless to say, the offer’s been withdrawn. Some might say that’s a bit harsh. After all, the man was just expressing his views on pertinent issues, and blaming the U.S. government is certainly nothing new. Maybe it’s because he thinks the government invented HIV to exact genocide on black people, or that he thinks that “white America” deserved Sept. 11. In the words of Gnarls Barkley, does that make him crazy? Possibly? More like probably.
Our expectations for speakers are far too high
Bonnie Tyler — “Holding Out For a Hero”
With the hubbub every year, one would think that a commencement speaker determines the course of each graduate’s life. To quote Bonnie, Northwestern students seem to “need a hero” each June to steer them through life. In reality, it’s nice to brag that Barack Obama gave you advice the day you graduated, but no matter who speaks, what matters is that you got through four years at Northwestern — and stayed sane through the process.
Whoever it is, we hope they at least say something original
Vitamin C — “Graduation (Friends Forever)”
Even if we brought Gandhi back from the dead to send off the class of 2008, it wouldn’t count for much if he spouted off the same stuff we’ve heard since our eighth-grade graduation. Vitamin C should get an award for writing our generation’s favorite, most overplayed departure song: After 16 years of schooling, you’d think “La la la la / We’ll still be friends forever” would only cause eye-rolling but, somehow, it’d likely bring just as many tears if played at commencement.