Conan O'Brien's graduation speech Saturday at Dartmouth College arrived too late to be considered in The Atlantic Wire's 2011 Commencie award voting, but had it been eligible, there's little doubt that O'Brien's speech, would have been recognized as this year's most sobering depiction of the real world. A look back at two other O'Brien commencement speeches--one delivered at New York City's Stuyvesant High School and the other at Harvard--show that while O'Brien the talk show may have called on viewers to reject cynicism when he left NBC, Conan the commencement speaker has a more jaundiced world view.
- "My first job as your commencement speaker is to illustrate that life is not fair. For example, you have worked tirelessly for four years to earn the diploma you’ll be receiving this weekend, and Dartmouth is giving me the same degree for interviewing the fourth lead in Twilight. Deal with it."
- "Another example that life is not fair: if it does rain, the powerful rich people on stage get the tent. Deal with it."
- "You parents must be patient because it is indeed a grim job market out there. And one of the reasons that it’s so tough finding work is that aging baby boomers refuse to leave their jobs...Trust me on this."
- "I’m here to tell you that, though you should not fear failure, you should do your very best to avoid it."
- "Nietzsche famously said 'Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”' But what he failed to stress is that it almost kills you. Disappointment stings and, for driven, successful people like yourselves it is disorienting."
- "What Nietzsche should have said is 'Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you watch a lot of Cartoon Network and drink mid-price Chardonnay at 11 in the morning. '"