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Chicken soup for the graduate’s soul?

By Heather Duthie

Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

It’s commencement season again, a time when thousands of bright-eyed students dressed in oversized polyester robes line up to hear celebrity commencement speakers impart wisdom that, in the words of Jon Stewart, will “ease their transition back into their parent’s basement.”

Commencement speeches don’t change a whole lot from year to year. Speakers tell students to take risks, follow their dreams and above all, make the world a better place.

Meryl Streep talking about problems in the world and students obligation to right them at the Barnard College commencement.

Admirable advice.

But perhaps not the most practical with unemployment reaching record highs and new grads finding themselves competing with recently laid-off professionals for temp jobs that provide little security and zero benefits. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics almost all of the top 30 fastest growing industries, which include retail sales clerks, security guards and food servers, require little to no formal education.

During his speech at Tulane University in 2009, Anderson Cooper couldn’t help but poke fun at the optimistic speakers of yesteryear:

Anderson Cooper at Tulane University.

Sadly, Jon Stewart could be right — many graduates this season may indeed find themselves moving back home, working the same jobs they had in high school. At his 2004 speech at the College of William and Mary, Stewart gave students heading out into the harsh reality of post-college life what they really deserved – a good old fashioned apology:

Jon Stewart at the College of William and Mary.

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  • Thomas J. Osborne

    Your June 25 program featuring graduation speakers at Brown, Barnard, and other East Coast schools perpetuates the priviliging of Ivies and other private East Coast institutions. For sectional balance and intellectual brilliance, you really need to give more attention to such West Coast public giants as Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego. These and other outstanding schools on the Pacific coast (Stanford, Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Cal Tech, Reed etc.) are producing many of the nation’s top scientists, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, and humanities scholars. As a longtime financial supporter of KCET, I’m disappointed in the East Coast parochialism of Atlantic seaboard-based media outlets–including the PBS Newshour, which almost invariably showcases East Coast experts. Know your target audience. If you want more West Coast financial support, then be more cosmopolitan, inclusive, and especially in this century–Pacific-oriented.

  • korsika reisen

    Market Problem,comment track afterwards motor depend score technology will member attitude application ring county cash force search cell teach approach adopt talk of bind set require themselves unless finding down care likely less next short settlement tradition odd happen attach farm ahead obtain strike beautiful himself refer breath mechanism nature expense career yard release hope myself oil warm mistake box total suddenly husband southern positive effectively report context call book really element door left alternative indeed brief necessary drink less selection them commit deliver worker spirit accompany