Of all of the rites and transitions I've undergone in my young life, graduating from Yale has been the most anti-climactic and the least affecting. I'm serious: I felt more changed after buying my first (unnecessary) training bra and going on my first date (a group outing to see Speed 2: Cruise Control). I felt more nostalgic when I left my first job, as a line cook at Bagel Nosh; I still experience fond recollections when I catch a whiff of fresh lox cream cheese.
It may be because the ceremony is stretched out over the span of several days, and because the events reeked of institutional self-glorification and money-mongering (see: Yale secretly sending advertisements for the 3 hour long commencement musical to my parents, leading my father to "surprise" us after dinner with pricey tickets) rather than a celebration of the students. When it comes down to it, erc loved Yale--the campus, the teachers, the classes--but she doesn't feel the need to celebrate that love by marching around the Yale Corporation Board for four hours and sitting through 500 allusions to Yale's "awesome relationship with China." By the time it was over, I felt like I had to graduate from graduation.
Yes, I've already used that line that many times.
Perhaps the highlight of the festivities is the Class Day Speech, which is given by a "famous" Yale alumnus who gets paid next to nil for flying to Crack Haven to "inspire" a crowd of over privileged kids wearing stupid hats (the bottom picture is of erc in her hat, a Salvation Army-enabled concoction). Regardless, you can see why Yale's repertoire is less than star-studded--vs, say, Harvard's tag-team of Bill Gates/Clinton.
This year, the speaker was Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International and an all-purposes political pundit (it's safe to assume that 90% of the senior class has read that wiki entry I linked). The guy's on television, so he speaks articulately and eloquently; he opened by alluding to a Yale student's criticism of his selection as a speaker in the Daily News--a move swiped from Matthew Fox's speech at Columbia! Everyone seemed pretty impressed by his bland land-of-opportunity rhetoric, but the speech was pretty insubstantial. Apparently, this country's "open borders" can be analogized to keeping an open mind after graduation. Also, taxi drivers can teach you things, and America rocks and will keep on winning at everything.
I may or may not blog my cliche high school valedictory address, recently rediscovered with the recovery of files from my childhood computer, for your reading pleasure. Until then, here are some words of advice for future sons and daughters of Eli:
1. Don't shop astronomy courses when you're desperately seeking a group IV, even if they have cool names like "Planets and Stars." They involve HUGE numbers. Plus the tiny ones that look like apostrophes.
2. Don't live in my apartment building/tenement, unless you enjoy water heaters from the 19th century, neighborhood halfway houses, and a basement dweller who blasts the theme from Star Wars at 4 am.
3. Don't trust the doctors at DUH. They want to harvest your organs for the Yale Sustainable Food Project.
4. Don't trust your Teaching Assistants. They want to use you as a paradigm of a student who they "reformed from a C- to a B paper."
5. Did you consider Stanford? It's not in New Haven...