The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday May 27th

Scott Kicks Past Grad Speakers In the Head

Stuart Scott is speaking at graduation, a man who is as cool as the other side of the pillow.

The people will come in droves, I predict, filling nearly every seat in Kenan Stadium, ears pricked in anticipation for what words of wisdom might tumble forth from the lips of the best announcer, bar none, on ESPN.

Seniors from the days of yesteryear will no doubt curse the academic aptitude that allowed them to graduate before May 2001. And they have good reason to. Because the speakers of graduations past sucked.

They certainly had big names (well, some did, in particular circles) and had good messages (well, some of them harshed the graduation mellow). They gave it the old college try.

But there was a reason most of the parents were zoning out and changing the film in their cameras as said speakers delivered a veritable cornucopia of pointers for the twenty-somethings on the move.

Seniors passed the time napping on the shoulder of the person next to them, only retreating from their postdrunken haze to halfheartedly knock the inevitable beach ball.

I understand that those lucky few chosen to wear the caps and gowns might have attended a UNC graduation in years past, and they know what I'm talking about.

But the rest of you have no frame of reference for how bad past graduation speakers were, and thus, how terrific Stuart Scott will be.

So here I present your guide, CliffsNotes style, to those who have graced the lawn of Kenan and welcomed Tar Heels into the real world.

1996 -- Nobel Prize winner and Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Name recognition: 6. (Some students will recognize his name, and those who don't know they should.)

Speech: Eloquent, chock full of literary references. Heaney quotes William Wordsworth. Quote: "Make the world before you a better one by going into it with boldness."

Comments: Great, inspiring message and thus, ignored.

1997 -- White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles Name recognition: 9.

Speech: Personal anecdotes and pointers. Quote: "If I tell my wife I'll be home at 8 p.m. and I get home at 7:30 p.m., I'm a hero. But if I tell her I'll be home at 7 p.m. and I get home at the exact 7:30 p.m., I'm in the doghouse."

Comments: Most graduates couldn't give two shits about his wife, but Bowles earns extra points for making the speech only 18 minutes long.

1998 -- Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund.

Name recognition: 2 (Who?)

Speech: Money bad, help the poor.

Quote: "Where's our moral outrage? Where's your moral outrage?"

Comments: Jesus, lady, ease up. Speech kills the celebration mood, especially with tale about poor mom who could only feed her child ketchup and water from McDonald's. That's just plain unnecessary.

1999 -- New York Knicks player, Sen. Bill Bradley.

Name recognition: 8.

Speech: Tinged with references to Columbine, Mr. Rogers-esque plea to treat your neighbor well.

Quote: "Something is wrong when parents do not see their children are building bombs under their roofs."

Comments: Two reactions from graduates -- depression and snooze.

2000 - Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Eizenstat.

Name recognition: 3 (Who?)

Speech: Screw your dreams. Spend future fixing our mistakes.

Quote: "It is up to your generation to pick up our slack and to restore idealism and service to this nation."

Comments: C'mon man. We're ready to toss the caps and get soused.

The senior class honchos have redeemed themselves.

The path to Stuart Scott has been paved with good intentions. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.


Columnist Ashley Stephenson can be reached at

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