So now you're a Washington State alum: The CougCenter commencement speech

William Mancebo

Thousands of seniors, super-seniors and super-duper seniors will be leaving Pullman as a student for the final time on Saturday. We welcome them into the post college world.

Dr. Elson S. Floyd, President of Washington State University, steps to the podium at Beasley Coliseum to introduce the commencement speaker.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct honor to introduce someone of no distinction. He is a man who, like you, walked through these very hallowed halls at Washington State. He spent days on end tucked away in an edit bay in Murrow East. He made the trek to Moscow for a Wal-Mart before the one in Pullman sprang up. He almost got kicked out of a basketball game at the request of Kevin Love's father. For those reasons in addition to the fact that he wouldn't stop bothering me until I told him he could and because Sam Reed cancelled on us, I'd like to introduce, from the Class of 2010, Robert Michael Preston."

/smattering of applause

"Thank you, Dr. Floyd. What an honor it is to be introduced by someone who sounds like Morgan Freeman only speaking way slower."

"Ladies and gentlemen, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles....my fellow Cougs. I can remember sitting where you are about three years ago, looking up at a speaker whose name I don't remember and who spoke of things I don't recall. What she said is of no consequence to me. I'm sure she spent most of the speech pontificating about whatever field she worked in, how things were going to be changing and the world would be getting better. Truthfully, I paid little attention."

"Rather than toss a bunch of cheap, played out platitudes at you that you're sure to forget as I have, I'd like to talk about something a little different. So many commencement speakers focus on how tough the road ahead will be but I'm sure you know that. The economy, despite a slow recovery, is still in the tank. Jobs are hard enough to come by in good times but even harder in bad. But that's not what this day is about, is it? No, it's about something a little simpler than that. It's about you."

"When I came to Pullman in August of 2006, tuition was less than half of what it is now. If your arithmetic is a little rusty, that's less than seven years ago. The state was only just thinking about slashing budgets and jacking up costs. Valhalla only had a downstairs and the hot dogs at Munchyz were only three bucks."

"About the only desirable thing in that last paragraph was the expansion of Valhalla. The football team has been terrible and basketball has spent the last few years in the bottom half of a bad to mediocre conference. Granted, the football stadium is getting some upgrades but it doesn't do too much for you if there isn't a winning football team in there. To put it simply, not much has gone right for you."

"I can see some of you staring at your feet, wondering a few things. What the hell have I done, did I do the right thing coming to college and is this guy just as depressing in real life or does he just get some sick satisfaction out of being a dick? You'd feel that way understandably, the tone of this speech hasn't been fantastic."

"Sure, there have been things in the last few years that have stunk. In spite of all that though, you have an awful lot to be proud of. You've accomplished something not a lot of people get the chance to. No matter where you go in life, don't let anyone diminish the importance of you sitting in front of me today. You're a college graduate. You've done what less than a third of the people in this country have done. It took years of perseverance, hard work, long nights and sometimes beating your head against a wall to get to this very point."

"You did this against every last odd possible. All those things I described to you earlier, the rising tuition, higher costs, budget cuts and a terrible economy. Everything was telling you to run far, far away from an institution of higher learning but you still did it. You even came here knowing full well the football team was coached by Paul Wulff."

"But college isn't just a place to go and pay an exorbitant amount of money for a piece of paper. It's a place to undergo tremendous personal growth. When I came here, I was a shy, pasty kid who'd never been away from home. When I left, I barely went home during the year, I had a beautiful girlfriend and yes, I'd put on a few pounds. Alright, more than a few. Fine, some of my shirts from high school didn't fit me."

"What's responsible for all this? It's this institution and the people you met and lived with while you were here. Pullman is incredibly unique when it comes to the college experience. With little else to do after the homework is shoved into a desk drawer to be further procrastinated on later, you naturally gravitate to this school and its people. You develop a passion for its sports teams unlike just about any other regardless of their performance. You form bonds with friends stronger than any you could ever imagine. You spent countless hours with noses buried in text books and even more countless hours hopping from party to party and hoping that cop didn't see you toss that open beer onto a fraternity's lawn."

"What you have done here is something incredible. You've not only chosen to get an advanced education in one of the toughest times in American history, you've completely transformed into a full fledged adult."

"After I'm done, you'll come up here, get a little frame that doesn't actually have a diploma in it, shake Dr. Floyd's hand and that will be that. Tonight, you'll eat and celebrate with your family and, if you're like me, hit the bar at about 9:45 then leave only when the bartender begs you."

"At some point, you'll have to pack your things and go. What makes this place special, this tract of land they call God's Country, is that you'll never want to leave. It's not just because leaving means it truly is all over and that contemplation of grad school is gone. It's because you've spent the greatest years of your life here with people you'll know and in my case, marry for the rest of your life. Pullman and Washington State University will always be reserved for that behind the velvet rope section of your heart. You'll remember those football games, no matter how bad. You'll remember trekking over to the Coug instead of that lecture you, at the time called 'less important than at least a beer or two.'"

"But when you finally do get everything in the car and you head west, south, east or north, you'll see Pullman in you're rear view mirror one more time. Every time you've left, you've come back. But not this time. Next time you return, you'll be an alumni. Things will feel different. You won't feel like you fit in quite as well and most importantly, the students will look a lot younger. No, seriously, they'll look like a bunch of 15-year olds with advanced macroeconomics books."

"So when Pullman slowly fades away from your mirror, don't lament that you'll never be back again. You will and I encourage you to be a frequent visitor and more importantly, give back. But what you are leaving behind is one of the most important periods of your life. When Pullman disappears, the person that you are doesn't leave. But your period of transformation is over. You are, and will forever be, a Coug."

"Now, if I may end with a joke so as to lighten the mood a bit. You and Husky fans actually share something in common, did you know that? Yep, neither of you went to the University of Washington. Also, if Joey Reagan, a communications instructor, is in the room I've been waiting a few years to say this: that mid-term that was worth 5% of your grade followed by a final that was worth half is horse shit and you know it."

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