Each year, around this time, dozens of celebrities fan out across America and descend on college towns in the middle of nowhere to deliver the same tired cliches to a group of hungover college students. Who are these people?
The celebrity commencement speaker tradition is an odd one. Famous people from film, television and politics are brought before fresh-faced graduates to offer words of hope, to imbue in them the idea that anything is possible. But we only get excited by speakers whose accomplishments are such we could never match them. We will never get tired of millionaires telling us how to live our lives, or something. And also, maybe they will mention our school in the news! Here is your DEFINITIVE guide to this year's hottest commencement speakers. (Scored in the key commencement areas of Fame, Funniness and Controversy.)
Barack Obama is, obviously, the hottest commencement speaker on the circuit. He's the president of the United States! If you get the president to speak at your commencement speech, there is a good chance that many of your graduates will be on TV. For a day, at least, all in attendance will forget just how deeply they had to go in debt to go to your school. And guaranteed protests (like those at ASU and Notre Dame last year) will give graduates an illuminating first look at the divisiveness that awaits beyond college's liberal wonderland.
Where he's speaking: Hampton College, University of Michigan, and Kalamzoo Central High School, which won him in a contest.
Can't book Barack? Michelle is an excellent second choice. She may not be as controversial or news-generating as her husband, but if she says something about Malia or Sasha then there might be one of those 30 second "ain't it funny" news bite clips on Anderson Cooper 360 that night.
Where She's Speaking: University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Anacostia High School
But what if you hate the Obamas? Glenn Beck would be an excellent choice, provided your university is ideologically consistent enough that half of the student body doesn't instantly catch fire when you announce Beck as your speaker. This is why he is speaking at Liberty University this year, and will probably never speak at any other college, ever.
Where He's Speaking: Liberty University
Rachel Maddow is a good choice for an all-female school: Maddow's a Rhodes Scholar, which reinforces her academic credentials, and a lesbian, which reinforces her love for females. Plus, she seems super fun to get drunk with after the speech.
Where She's Speaking: Smith College
NBC News guy Luke Russert would be a good pick for any school, for he can speak to the value of hard work, luck, and blatant nepotism in achieving your dreams. Plus,
he might bring his dad! (Whoops, No he won't. I forgot that Tim Russert is dead.)
Where He's Speaking: Wingate University (Which is a real university.)
Both Michelle and Barack are both speaking at historically black colleges. But what if your historically black college isn't historic or black enough? Bill Cosby to the rescue! He will provide trenchant social commentary, and then everyone can make him recite lines from The Cosby Show after. Seriously though, why would anyone invite Bill Cosby to a commencement? Maybe to one of those funerals where you burn the body and send the pyre floating down the river. He's just sort of a downer these days
Where He's Speaking: Shaw University
There are a surprisingly few amount of professionally funny people in 2010's hot commencement speaker line-up. Especially when the genre has proven so fruitful for people like Conan O'Brien and Will Ferrell. Alec Baldwin is about it this year, for laughs.
Where He's Speaking: NYU
Hey, look! Famous philanderer, CNN legal analyst and New Yorker contributor is speaking at not one, but two institutions of higher learning this year. Here is a man that should inspire thousands of young college graduates to accomplish great things while never forgetting their ultimately sleazy roots.
Where He's Speaking: University of Pennsylvania Law School; Golden Gate University