Amy Poehler, Tom Hanks, and Denzel Washington are all speaking at college graduations. Who would you have picked for your commencement?


Image Credit: Tina Gill/PR Photos; Chris Hatcher/PR Photos; Sylvain Gaboury/PR Photos

I am incredibly jealous of Harvard’s class of 2011. No, not because they go to a famous school in Boston (well, not in Boston, but nearby. No, not Tufts!), or because they’ve got two glorious months of college left before they’re thrust out into the real world. Instead, my jealousy stems from the fact that those lucky Ivy Leaguers have scored an amazing Class Day speaker: Amy Poehler, star of Parks and Recreation. This is possibly the best thing to potentially ever happen to anyone anywhere in the history of the universe.

But Harvard’s graduation isn’t the only commencement that’s getting an injection of star power this year. Here’s an incomplete list of the boldfaced names that will be orating before cap and gown-clad masses come May:

Tom Hanks (Yale)

Denzel Washington (Penn)

Stephen Colbert ( Northwestern)

Barack Obama (Miami Dade College)

Michelle Obama (Spelman College, which also plans to give honorary degrees to Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Princeton and GW)

Bill Clinton (NYU)

Malcolm Gladwell ( Cooper Union)

Alton Brown (New England Culinary Institute)

Jim Lehrer (Shepherd University)

And those are just the ones that have been announced already. Though there’s a severe Alec Baldwin deficiency here, it’s an enviable list otherwise. Which got me thinking — who do you wish had spoken at your college graduation? Personally, I can’t imagine a speaker much better than Poehler, unless Bossypants Tina Fey or my number one friend crush Mindy Kaling decided to throw their hats into the commencement speech ring. And I’m certainly not still bitter that the affiliated college across the street snagged Meryl Streep for their Class Day the same year I graduated. Nope. Not bitter at all. How about you, PopWatchers? Who would have been your dream commencement speaker? And which of the stars listed above do you think is going to give the best speech?

Comments (36 total) Add your comment
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  • tracy bluth

    That’s great, but not as awesome as one Lil’ Sebastian.

    • elena

      THIS x1000.

  • Nikita

    Dude, Robert Downey Jr. for a commencement speech would be awesome!

  • Dash

    I went to a womens college and would have loved to have Meryl Streep speak at my commencement. She has such wonderful things to say about women’s education!

  • Dave

    Amy Poehler really would be a dream. That would be awesome. I’m pretty much on the same page as you, Hilary. Because I would also be delighted with Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, or Meryl Streep.

  • Sara

    Phylicia Rashad spoke at my graduation (Syracuse, ’04). It was awful. I was especially annoyed because the two prior years’ speakers were Bill Clinton and Rudy Guiliani.

    • Nicole

      I’ll give you Clinton, but I’d rather listen to Mrs. Huxtable than Rudy Guilliani any day. Hell, I’d rather listen to Rudy Huxtable.

      I would LOVE to hear Poehler, Fey or Kaling. Or one of my favorite writers, like David Sedaris or Agusten Burroughs – someone smart yet funny is definitely ideal.

      Two of the best commencement speeches I’ve ever read were by writers: J.K. Rowling gave an amazing speech about the importance of failure at Harvard and David Foster Wallace spoke about staying present and true in the world when he spoke at Kenyon College. You can read both online – definitely recommended.

    • CAS

      Clinton was my speaker (UCSD ’97), and it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Mind you, it was while he was still President, and he basically made a policy speech instead of a real commencement speech. He’d probably be excellent to have now.

  • Kristen

    I would be siked if Amy Poehler spoke at my graduation. Or Tina. Or Meryl. Or Mindy.

  • AT

    Kevin Smith spoke at my university’s (IWU) commencement the year before I started there. I went anyways since I lived in town. Crass and hilarious, but the parents and staff did not appreciate it. They haven’t had anyone fun since then, though my sister’s class got William Cohen right after Clinton left office.


    Oprah Winfrey!

  • Annie

    I would love to hear Martin Sheen give a speech or President Josiah Bartlet both carry equal weight in my dream speaker box.

  • AnDE

    We were supposed to have Bon Jovi who canceled last minute. He was replaced with a girl who held a suitcase on “Deal or No Deal”, let’s just say I will never get those 45 minutes of my life back! So sad!!

  • Shannon


    • ani

      SERIOUSLY! The year I graduated, NU’s speaker was McCain. The next year, they had Obama and now they have Colbert?!? WTF. Why am I soo old.

      • ani

        p.s. I’d love to have John Stewart or Conan OBrien

      • Katja

        I sort of had Jon Stewart! Well, it wasn’t technically my commencement, but I’m counting it anyways. He’s an alum of my school (William & Mary!) and he spoke at the class of 2004’s commencement. I am class of 2005, so I juuuust missed him. But I did make sure that I signed up to volunteer as an usher. It sucked to be on my feet all that time in dress shoes…but he gave a good speech that was funny and actually contained some good advice. I was very impressed.

  • Paige

    Number one person: JK ROWLING. But I would be extremely happy with Meryl Streep or Steve Jobs.I graduate in two years, hopefully we get somebody amazing!

  • Annie

    Steve Martin would be good too – funny but probably eloquent too.

  • Jackie

    I was hoping that Henry Winkler would be the commencement speaker at my graduation because he went to my school, but we had Sherry Lansing, who I did not like at all! Harvard had J.K. Rowling a couple of years ago, and I was incredibly jealous.

  • bpp

    I’d rather have a writer speak. Not some actor.

    What do actors have to know? Nothing.

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