In order to continue coverage of our own commencement address contest, which is open for submissions only until March 31 and pays real cash prizes, Trop sent out word to its writers, editors, friends, and affiliates looking for examples of the best commencement addresses available on YouTube. We said we were looking for a mix of celebrity guest speakers and high school valedictorians. We said we were looking for lessons and guidance, for speeches we could learn something from, speeches that might intimidate our contestants but might also mostly inspire them. And after the lot of us tested various combinations of search terms— “commencement address”/ “funny commencement address”/ “best commencement address”/etc.—and after repeatedly being tempted by but ultimately passing over David McCullough’s “You Are Not Special” speech at Wellesley High School, we gathered together, cast our votes, and came up with these five examples, known collectively as: The Top Commencement Addresses on YouTube.
1. “Awesome Funny Graduation Speech” by Ralf Wyn. This guy speaks in a cadence that’s uniquely his, refers to bed wetting in the first minute, and generally has a way of being a funny guy without being obnoxiously aware that he’s a funny guy during this, his opportunity to show his true level of how funny he is to everybody he knows.
2. “Jon Stewart Commencement Address” by Jon Stewart. Starts with an awkward cough, refers to Tourette’s. Win-win.
3. “Stephen Colbert 2011 Commencement Speech at Northwestern University” by Stephen Colbert. We debated this one hotly. Is this speech better than Jon Stewart’s? Can we feature them both? I guess we can.
4. “Funny Valedictorian Speech” by Henry Goddard. We needed some diversity in this list so we added a Canadian. Also we like when he calls Mr. Fisher “big guy.”
5. “alig-harvard.commencement.speech” by Ali G. We’re doing our part to keep Ali G in circulation. Online lit mags are relevant cultural resources.
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.