My sister graduated from college last weekend. Being a loving brother, I took a weekend out of my life to fly up to Portland and watch the ceremony (sorry to the Portland friends I didn't have time to see: I really didn't have much time for socializing). For the most part, it went quite well. A speech by Ray Suarez, a family picnic, and a carnival-themed birthday party where I dressed as the bearded lady (miniskirt and all). You know, the usual.
There was one slightly awkward moment, though. Sitting in the audience waiting for the Phi Beta Kappa initiation ceremony to start (she's a clever one, my sister), I took a little time to chat with my dad. At some point, I launched into a diatribe about how boring your standard graduation is. You know: you sit in uncomfortable seats for a couple hours, just waiting for that 10-second interval when your friend/relative walks across their stage, while watching ceremonies for awards that don't interest you and listening to Pomp And Circumstance (I loath that song with a burning, burning passion).
And then every speech you hear at these events is pretty much the exact same. The phrase "value of a liberal-arts education" gets used more often than can reasonably be accommodated by a drinking game. Every college has "uniquely prepared you for the challenges of the modern world". Everybody who has ever graduated is living in "a unique period of human history". I'm sure you've heard this speech. Many, many times. (Of course, it's not that this stuff isn't true -- but there have to be more innovative ways of presenting it!)
After several minutes of somewhat spirited ranting on my part, the ceremony got underway. It was a reasonably good ceremony, all things considered. And then around halfway through, the master of ceremonies announced that the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences would be giving a brief speech to the graduates. And so the dean stood up to talk.
From the chair immediately behind me.
He had apparently been there the entire time, listening to me complain about how awful I was expecting him to be. If there had been any doubt that he had heard me, it was quickly dispelled by his first few words when he mentioned he had overheard someone in the audience complaining about the formulaicity of all of these speeches.
I slowly sank in my seat and didn't rise until well after he left the stage.
Of course, he did end up making exactly the kind of speech I had been grumbling about. So that made me feel a tiny bit better about things.