Ladies and gentlemen, on the morning of Saturday, April 28, thousands of the University”s seniors will file into Michigan Stadium to be recognized for the completion of their college careers. They”ll walk before their friends and families in a proud showing of accomplishment, and the memories of the moment will be grand.
But the sad truth is, on this graduation day, something will be terribly amiss. The ceremony will be marred by an oversight so grievous that it will cast a dark shadow on what should otherwise be a glorious day.
You see, dear friends, this commencement program will feature a student speaker, and that speaker, tragically, is not me.
(Cue the pipe organ”s descending “Dunh dunh duhhhh…”)
Several weeks ago, I turned in my application to be the student speaker and, oh, let me tell you: It was quite the speech. Dry yet endearing, humorous yet relevant, witty yet profoundly touching. Religious movements have been inspired by less impassioned works.
And the recorded version was nothing short of aural gold. My deep voice, polished by years of demanding vocal training in a Venetian conservatory, rang true on the Sony microcassette, pouring forth like the purest white chocolate melted, of course.
Then, this past Monday (or as schoolchildren of the future will call it, The Day of Righteous Injustice To Be Mentioned Neither Here Nor There), I received a crushing e-mail that caused much weeping, gnashing of teeth and tearing of clothes. And after deleting this chain letter, I then found out that I hadn”t been picked to give the commencement speech either.
Apparently, in a late-night meeting held somewhere in the torch-lit catacombs beneath the Fleming Administration Building, the mysterious Committee to Elect a Student Speaker had convened around a pentagram-shaped table and decided my cruel fate.
“We must never allow Chris Kula to share his vaguely satirical graduation message with the masses,” they agreed. “Also, we must gain control of the banks and the media.”
However, it will take more than a shadowy government conspiracy to silence me. Whereas my fellow rejected speechwriters can do nothing but mask their disappointment and pursue careers in public relations, I can jump on the bully pulpit of the column and take my protest to the people.
That blasted committee has no idea what they”re passing up. Only once in a great while does a writer come along to tap into the spirit of the human condition and create something so profound, so affecting, that it simply must be shared with a larger audience. And when that type of individual is not an option, that”s when you call a Chris Kula.
After all, the public is already familiar with the style of a Chris Kula. Between print circulation and online readership, it”s safe to say that at upwards of 50, 55 people read the column on a weekly basis and at least half claim to enjoy it. And of those 25 diehard fans, research shows that at least a half dozen are not currently incarcerated.
And once you subtract the five freshmen girls I keep on my payroll, you”ll all right, I have grown tired of this bit, and I care not to finish it.
The bottom line, in all seriousness, is that I really am disappointed that I won”t get the chance to give the commencement speech. Sure, it would have been a thrill to speak before thousands of people in the Big House, and sure, it would have made for a great anecdote to bring up completely out of context later in life (“No, doctor, I don”t floss, but I was the speaker at my college graduation”). But what most disappoints me is the lost opportunity to add some levity to the potentially too-solemn vibe of the day.
I would have given a fun speech. No “We are the future of tomorrow” clichs, no reverent quotes from Churchill or Roosevelt, no excerpts read from “Tuesdays with Morrie” just a light-hearted message about being young. The long line of distinguished faculty and learned scholars at the ceremony could make their profound statements about life for as long as they want, and I”m sure some of them would actually be very good.
But the best commencement speech? Sadly, that”s the one you won”t be hearing except in mumbles, through gritted teeth, if you”re sitting anywhere near me during the ceremony. I will have my very feeble, very sad vengeance.
Chris Kula”s column runs every Thursday. Give him feedback at www.michigandaily.com/forum or via e-mail at email@example.com.