Inventing Yourself— in Your Face, 2010

Inventing Yourself— in Your Face, 2010

It’s graduation time, and energy is in the air. So I couldn’t resist one more grad post. It’s about Celebrities— our heroes.

Hitch your wagon to a star.  --- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Are they our heroes because they represent the values and attained goals we admire? Or maybe because they are models of who we would like to become?

There is undeniable power in seeing our heroes in person. They draw. They pull. They are people magnets. And they charm, they entertain. And when they succeed beyond those levels, they inspire.

So it’s no wonder that schools of all kinds vie for celebrity speakers at graduation.

Just look at a short list of 2010 celeb guests…. all admired or hated, all heroes on some level, to many people, somewhere.

What qualities do they have in common? Their celebrity. Their fame. Their charisma. Their energy. Their self-invented personas.

California Governor, Predator killer and Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger— Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Film star Alec Baldwin— New York University in New York City. Arguably the most underrated leading man in film today.

Academy Award winning-actress Meryl Streep at Barnard College in New York City. The Sarah Bernhardt of our time. She should have 15 oscars.

Journalist Bob Schieffer, “Face the Nation” — Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.

Conan O’Brien doing the Commencement speech at Harvard.

First Lady Michelle Obama at the University of Arkansas, and then at Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C.

And her husband— earlier we covered President Barack Obama at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was also at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia,

and Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan— winner of the “Race to Commencement” contest.

They won the grand prize— the President. You’ll recall that President Obama had excellent advice— use your brain, don’t listen to pundits.

And then there was Jodie Foster— in 2006 at the University of Pennsylvania— doing a karaoke of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself.’ Ms Foster is undoubtedly brilliant, so maybe her point is the same one? Learn to think originally?

How about Stephen Colbert? ‘The Colbert Report’ was brand new when he gave the 2006 Commencement Address at Knox. Colbert is an ace at puncturing celeb heroes, and the smart grads at Knox got the joke.

Will Ferrell did a comedy letter supposedly from George Bush, Ferrel’s insane Bush impersonation. More celeb puncturing.

Here’s Ellen DeGeneres. She reminded students that she never even went to College. “I’m not saying you wasted your time or money,” she said, “but look at me. I’m a huge celebrity!”

J. K. Rowling used her Harvard graduation speech to mock her own fantasy characters: she thought she was “at the world’s largest Gryffindor reunion.”

Celebs com in all politics, and with all agendas. Their nature often mirrors their audience.

“America’s favorite dad” Bill Cosby speaks at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Just to the north, comedian Glenn Beck is speaking at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Some speakers do have political messages, didactic propaganda, and so on. But most of the celebs seem to be trying to tell us the same thing.

Don’t be like anybody else.

Be yourself. Whoever that is.

Yep. You’re stuck with being you so make the most of who you are, what you are.

Most of their speeches involves self-mockery, puncturing the very celeb image that got them invited to speak. They are master deconstructionists.

They’re mostly trying to say, I’m up here because I finally decided to be myself, as much as I can be. The world is a crazy place, so carve out your own little island of dan it.

They’re saying, congratulations to you grads. Now go and find out who you are.

Hitch your wagon to a star, and be that star.

The world is waiting. Now, go, get in it’s face!

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