The Top Celebrity Commencement Speeches of All Time (Video)
By Scott Harris Posted May 7th 2010 03:00PM
Unless, of course, your commencement speaker is a celebrity.
And in recent years, the chances of that happening have been increasing exponentially. This is at least partially due to the fact that there are a lot more "celebrities" wandering around these days -- we're looking at you, The Situation -- but it's also because universities and student bodies are increasingly interested in providing a truly memorable send-off for outgoing classes. After all, why settle for some administration puppet when you can have a honest-to-pete puppet like Kermit the Frog (Southampton College, 1996) give your commencement address?
With that in mind, and just in time for the latest batch of annual college commencements, here's our list of some of the top celebrity commencement addresses ever.
• Conan O'Brien. Back before he became the face of NBC -- er, make that TBS -- CoCo got his start writing for Harvard's influential comedy magazine National Lampoon. In 2000, he returned to his old stomping grounds to present their commencement speech. Beat that, Leno.
• Jodie Foster. Over the centuries, many commencement speakers have given talks about the importance of seizing the moment and recognizing when opportunity knocks. Few of them, however, have done so quite like Jodie Foster, who ended her speech in 2006 at the University of Pennsylvania by giving a karaoke rendition of Eminem's classic rap anthem 'Lose Yourself.' We are not joking: see for yourself.
• Stephen Colbert. 'The Colbert Report' was less than a year old when Stephen Colbert gave the 2006 commencement address at Knox, but Colbert had already perfected his comedic alter ego, "Stephen Colbert." While Colbert is not a Knox graduate -- he went to Northwestern -- "Colbert" may very well be. It's kind of hard to tell at this point, isn't it?
• Oprah Winfrey. Stanford University's mascot is a tree, which is perfectly fitting considering how many million acres of forest have been razed in order to produce tomes for the book club of their 2008 commencement speaker, Oprah Winfrey. That connection, however, was not noted during her inspirational speech.
• Will Ferrell. Conan O'Brien isn't the only comedian or 'SNL' alumnus to give a commencement speech at Harvard; Will Ferrell also did the honors with what was less a speech than an extended riff on his comedy routine. Coming in 2003, the speech also contained a lengthy (fake) letter from President George W. Bush, which Ferrell read while doing his famous Bush impersonation.
• Ellen DeGeneres. How important is getting a good college education? That depends on who you ask. Most educators, including presumably the faculty at Tulane, would say it's a vital building block in any young person's life. Then there's Ellen DeGeneres, who reminded students that she had never gone to college. "I'm not saying you wasted your time or money," she said, "but look at me. I'm a huge celebrity."
• J. K. Rowling. The world's richest author made a rare public speaking appearance at Harvard in 2008 and calmed her nerves in classic Rowling style: The school's ancient architecture and red and gold color scheme helped her trick herself into believing she was "at the world's largest Gryffindor reunion."
• Seth MacFarlane. We're not sure why Harvard gets all the coolest comedians, but when MacFarlane appeared in 2006, they hit the mother lode. Delivering different segments of his address while performing as the various characters he voices on 'Family Guy,' it was as if Harvard had booked an entire team of commencement speakers rather than just one lone funnyman.
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