A sneak peek at Tom Brokaw's commencement speech

Posted by Skylar Browning on Fri, May 13, 2011 at 11:30 AM

For the first time in recent memory, University of Montana graduates will hear from a celebrity commencement speaker during Saturday's festivities.

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One of the most trusted names in news, Tom Brokaw, will take some time away from his Montana ranch to pass on sage advice to the Class of 2011.

Not surprisingly, this ain't Brokaw's first rodeo. He receives a good number of invitations from institutions of higher learning every year. And that means some of the same lines get recycled year in and year out. There's nothing wrong with that, of course — especially considering he gets high praise for each speech being short, funny and poignant. But for those who aren't fortunate enough to hear Brokaw on Saturday, or those who may not be of the clearest of mind after a week of keg stands finals, we've compiled what amounts to his greatest hits so you won't feel like you're missing out.

Cheap shot at Montana State
Chance he'll say it: 91%
Evidence:
From Fordham, circa 2009: "If I were giving these remarks at Columbia, I’d have to speak much more slowly and use shorter words for the class at Columbia."
From Dartmouth, circa 2005: "In recent years I've given commencement addresses or class day speeches at Penn, Harvard, and Yale and at those institutions...hear me out...at those institutions I had to speak more slowly and use shorter words than I will here."
From Stanford, circa 2006: "In the last couple of years I've been a Class Day speaker at Harvard and Yale, and at those institutions I had to use shorter words and speak more slowly."

The real world is junior high
Chance he'll say it: 87%
Evidence:
From Emory, circa 2005: "Here is a secret that no one has told you: Real life is junior high."
From Iowa, circa 2010: "I have some surprising news for you...the best preparation for the real world is not the University of Iowa, or high school, or summer jobs. It turns out, the best preparation for the real world is junior high."
Fordham again: "I can speak with some experience when I say to you, and this may be a revelation, the real world was junior high."

A quote about making a buck and a difference
Chance he'll say it: 70%
Evidence:
From John Carroll University, circa 2010: "On these occasions in the past I’ve said, 'It’s easy to make a buck; it’s tough to make difference.' Then a parent suggested a re-wording: 'It’s tough to make a buck but if you make a lot of bucks, you can make a big difference.'"
Stanford: "In the past I have concluded these remarks by saying it's easy to make a buck; it's tough to make a difference. And then a father wrote to me and said, 'I work on Wall Street. I have a rewriting of your phrase. It's tough to make a buck; but if you make a lot of bucks, you can make a helluva difference.'"
Dartmouth: "A few years ago, in a ceremony similar to this, I declared, 'It's easy to make a buck. It's tough to make a difference.' A father of one of the graduates at that ceremony wrote to me later and suggested a re-write. He said, 'It's tough to make a buck, but if you make lots of bucks, you can make a helluva difference.'"

A quote by Art Buchwold
Chance he'll say it: 50%
Evidence:
John Carroll: "Tim [Russert] and I had a friend, the late and exceptionally gifted humor columnist Art Buchwald, liked to conclude his commencement addresses by saying to graduates, 'We have given you a perfect world; don’t screw it up.' It was always good for a laugh, whatever the circumstances at the time."
Fordham: "My late, and exceptionally witty friend, the columnist Art Buchwald, would like to say on these occasions to graduating students, 'We have given you a perfect world; don’t screw it up.' It was always good for a laugh, whatever the circumstances at the time."

A qualifier on the quote by Art Buckwald:
Chance he'll say it: 50%
John Carroll: "It is a little difficult for me to issue the same order to the class of 2010, even in jest."
Fordham: "Obviously, it is a little difficult for me to issue the same order to the class of 2009, even in jest."

Twitter and the human experience
Chance he'll say it: 72%
Iowa: "And you should not surrender the essence of the human experience to 146 characters on Twitter or a Facebook page, however cleverly designed it may appear to be."
Fordham: "And do not surrender the essence of the human experience to 146 characters on a Twitter or a Facebook, however seductive the temptation.

Google and love
Chance he'll say it: 72%
Evidence:
Fordham: "You’ll not get a Google alert when you fall in love. You may be guided by the unending effort of poets and artists, biologists and psychiatrists to describe that irreplaceable and still mysterious emotion so essential to the human condition but all the search engines in the universe cannot replace the first kiss.
John Carroll: "You’ll not get a Google alert when you fall in love."
Iowa: "No text message will ever replace the first kiss."

Self-deprecating remark about himself as speaker
Chance he'll say it: 35%
Evidence:
Stanford: "And as a reader of the Stanford Daily, I realize that I was not a consensus choice. One student of the graduating class said, 'Tom Brokaw? That's like getting a contemporary radio station, adult radio station as a speaker—has a soothing effect but there's not much to get excited about.'"
Fordham: "I’ve also been reading your student newspaper and ... a number of you said as well that you really hoped that Stephen Colbert would be your speaker this year. I don’t blame for that but there’s an explanation. It turns out that Stephen has to spend his weekends in rehab so he couldn’t be here today."

Maybe Colbert's available for UM next year.

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