Class of 2012, congratulations.
[pause for three minutes of thunderous applause]
Congratulations on your hard work, your future promise, your gorgeous faces, and your ability to resist blatant pandering. Also, congratulations on your choice of student commencement speaker.
The road here has been long and hard (that’s what she said) but today your perseverance and intelligence pay off. Today you will leave UC Berkeley as experts in your respective fields.
And while the job market you enter may not be what you expected when you came here *cough* years ago, I’m sure you’ll do fine - I mean, you’re now conditioned to working long, irregular hours with only part-time pay to avoid CA labor laws, all while fueled on cheap ramen and caffeine. What employer doesn’t want workers used to that?
I like to think that getting a graduate degree from Berkeley is like climbing Mt Everest. No, not in that Berkeley is a cold and desolate place. No, not in that more and more people are coming from the Chinese side. And no, not in that it can cost a lot of money and you take nothing tangible from it.
More along the lines of you didn’t do it alone; you had a base camp full of sherpas supporting you. So please, take a moment to appreciate your sherpas: the people who made your journey here possible. They may be parents, advisors, staff, friends, or your local adderall dealer.
Seriously though, UC Berkeley is an amazing university. I can count the number of bad classes I’ve had here on one finger (and I’m saving that finger for you, Professor Robert Littlejohn*). This university is home to world-class faculty, research, teaching, and graduate students. I remember when I first came to UC Berkeley, *cough* years ago. I looked around at my peers - at you - and I felt awed. You guys seemed so smart and so friendly and so engaged with the world. I felt like an imposter, unworthy to be in a place of such accomplishment and progress. I knew my incompetence would be discovered any day and my admission would be revoked. But today, as I stand here on this stage, older and wiser, looking back, I now realize that incompetence can be hidden far longer than you think. The joke’s on you, UC Berkeley; you can’t revoke my admission now!
But even if you too felt like an imposter, or even—pardon my language—average, break out of that mindset now, as you graduate. UC Berkeley is an amazing place, but it can also be a bit of a bubble. Remember the tools you’ve gained and the networks you’ve built. You have the power to change the world. And if one day, you do find yourself changing the world, remember that you’ll need an incredibly sturdy table and a humongous globe-shaped diaper. UC Berkeley has given you the table; now it’s up to you to go forth and buy some diapers.
Thank you, and God bless the United States of America.
*Actually Robert Littlejohn is pretty legit. Speaking of him and fingers, he once crunched his finger in a sliding blackboard and kept lecturing despite the dripping blood. I’ll never be half the physicist he is.
And in case you are curious, here is the speech that bested mine: