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

William Mancebo

Its been the best years of your life, there's no doubting that. But now, it's over. You're a Washington State University alumni.

President Elson S. Floyd steps to the podium in front of a packed Beasley Coliseum

"Ladies and gentlemen, for the second year in a row, this young man pestered me into allowing him to speak in front of you. I'll grant him that it took less convincing than last year since I was scheduled to speak to you so I'll enjoy sitting here instead of, um, I dunno, standing. Please welcome, Washington State University class of 2010 graduate, Robert Michael Preston."

Smattering of applause, Joey Reagan boos from the top row of the building

"Yes, yes Joey. I think your classes are frightening as well. It's wonderful to be back in a place I wish I could get to more often. Now, some of you may have heard of my speech from last year and wondered if I would be taking a similar tone to that one."

"We'll do things a little differently this year. For one thing, the economy is slowly clawing its way out of a rather large chasm. I'd talk more about it but I don't really know a thing about how an economy operates so I'll refer you to Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

"The price of your education, after skyrocketing for half a decade, has stabilized thanks in large part to the brilliant mustachio'd president seated behind me. Yeah, the basketball team stinks an awful lot but you got to see something quite rare: a bowl bound WSU football team. Not since the class of 2007 has a group of seniors graduated seeing this football team in postseason play. To call you lucky in that regard wouldn't be doing it justice."

"It isn't all gumdrops, fairy dust and Christmas cards with Bo Pelini and his cat though. Yeah, the economy is better but getting a job is still mighty difficult. Some of you have been lucky enough to get to today without any student loan debit but many of your classmates took this endeavor on knowing full well they'd need to come up with the money to pay for their education after completing it. Outside of these doors, real life waits for you. I can think of a lot of reasons why you'd want to stay in here and avoid it forever."

"So before I send you out there, I want to talk about the last four or five or six or seven years of your life. You've spent this time with your noise buried in a textbook, taking feverish notes and countless exams and failing asleep at your desk with a pencil in hand and that RedBull you thought would help half full and precariously close to the edge of the table."

"But still more of your time was spent doing something else entirely, wasn't it? You spent a lot of it acting like a proper college student, shoving the homework into your desk drawer and moseying down to the bar for Taco Tuesday to be followed by Wing Wednesday and then 'Oh crap, I actually need to get my work done' Thursday."

"But those are the important parts of your college experience. Sure, the piece of paper with your name on it is super nice but lets be honest with ourselves: that isn't what we remember about college, is it? We had a class or two with a professor we loved but what you did instead of doing your work is what this has all been about. Those memories you made dropping the biology book and heading to the Dunes for a float in the river with a cooler of beer are perhaps the greatest things you'll take with you once you head home. For these years, you acted exactly as you should, like a college student."

"Make no mistake though, the mere fact that you are seated before me today is an incredible accomplishment. It took the support of each and every person who loves you seated in this arena to get you here; to get you to the point where you can say, 'I am a college graduate.' Wherever you go in your life, do not let a single, solitary person diminish the importance of what you have accomplished. This is not easy, it is not effortless and I can assure you it certainly was not painless. There were times you doubted whether you could do it all. But that's what your drive, your perseverance and these people who came here to celebrate this weekend with you were for."

"It wasn't any ordinary college experience, was it? Wherever you go, you wear your WSU gear with pride and you will most assuredly get a 'Go Cougs' from an alumni who is more proud of the university they attended than any alumni group I've met in my life. Does a USC grad get a 'Fight On!' waiting in line for coffee from a total stranger? Does a Notre Dame alum get a 'Go Irish' on vacation? Does a Texas fan get, as I got but with a more appropriate proclamation of fan allegiance, a 'Hook 'em!' drinking a beer in a tiny pub in London?"

"That's the amazing thing about this university and the people it produces. Even if you never laid an eye on one of your more than 23,000 classmates while you were here, you share a common bond stronger than any I ever experienced. You have this incredible tract of land they call 'God's Country' and the incredible experience this community provided to you."

"Once you walk out of here, college is over. You'll go home, go out to the bars one final time and then pack your things into the back of your car. Then, you'll take one last, long look at Pullman. It isn't the look of a person who will never be back. It's the look of a person who is seeing the best years of their life ... for the final time."

"You'll get in your car and head north or west or south or east. In the rearview mirror, Pullman will fade into the distance and disappear. If you're anything like me, you'll spend the next few miles to Colfax trying to convince yourself the allergens increased rather suddenly in your car and your eyes responded in their natural, completely instinctual manner to water."

"This place ... this place is special. Don't ever forget that. I want you back here as often as life will possibly allow, not reliving the glory days but to return to the place that transformed you from an immature teenager into a full-fledged adult; to pay your respects to Pullman and Washington State. Everything you accomplished here, the experiences of college and what this institution and the community it's in have done for you cannot be measured. I hope you keep it in an important place in your heart for decades to come. You have transformed both intellectually and personally into someone your family can be extraordinarily proud of."

"I am honored to call each and every one of you a graduate of Washington State University."

"Now, we got a little deep for a graduation speech, didn't we? Lets end, again, with a joke. A Coug walks into a bar on University Avenue in Seattle and says to the bartender, 'Hey, I've got a great Husky joke.' 'Look pal,' says the bartender. 'I wouldn't tell that in a Husky bar. I went to UW, and everyone else in this place is a fan. You still wanna tell it?' 'Oh heavens no,' the man replies. 'I don't want to bother explaining it so many times.'"

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