The front page of Saturday's Style section in the Washington Post carried an article on commencement addresses by Don Oldenburg. But the really amazing nugget came about 25 paragraphs in:
Most universities settle for small-splash speakers such as state politicians or captains of local industry, but others aggressively enter the celebrity lottery. Generally this means bestowing an honorary degree and covering travel expenses, rather than paying a fee...But some offer big bucks. Katie Couric, the soon-to-be CBS anchor, will receive $110,000 to speak at the University of Oklahoma's commencement -- all paid for from private funds, the university emphasizes.
Often, speakers discount their fees, or forgo them altogether. Bill Clinton, who can command more than $150,000 for speaking engagements, isn't taking money for commencement remarks...
Wow, Katie Couric, more shameless than Bill Clinton. That's amazing. Now remember this little fee whenever Katie starts harping on tax cuts for the rich, or making lame cracks about how she had to take out a loan to gas up her minivan. Let's imagine she spoke for 20 minutes. That's a wage of $330,000 an hour. And people resent Martha Stewart?
For $330,000 an hour, what did she offer the Oklahoma students? Did she unravel every secret in the Da Vinci Code? Did she offer one of those quick courses in how to get rich in real estate? Or maybe the talk about how you, too can cadge a federal grant out of the government to start a small business? No. As you might guess, the Norman Transcript reported she suggested graduates should try hard work and perserverance as she made lame jokes and bandied about lame platitudes when she spoke on Friday night:
Couric also joked with graduates about her newfound knowledge of an Oklahoma "Sooner."
"But who am I to question your mascot? My university's mascot is the Wahoo, a fish capable of drinking twice its weight. In retrospect, it's quite appropriate," Couric said, drawing gradual laughter once again....
"If you skip that keg party to go the extra mile at work, you'll probably feel better in the morning," Couric said, drawing laughter....
Finally, Couric emphasized the importance of acceptance and awareness of others and the world, despite difficult moments such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 attacks.
"The world is a scary place, but it is filled with peace loving, law abiding people. We are so much more alike than different. Celebrate our differences, but celebrate what unites us as well."
I'm sure Osama bin Laden would agree that he and Couric are more alike than different. (Or....maybe not.) Perhaps most shamelessly, Couric suggested that she's in the same boat with graduates, who are about to make, if they're lucky, half as much in a year as she just made in less than a half hour:
"Right now, we're about in the same boat, about to step out into the next moment of our lives," Couric said, referring to her new position as a CBS news anchor. "I'm getting ready to say good-bye to the world I've known. A ship is always safe in the harbor, but that's not what it's meant to do."
AP's report added that Couric told the graduates about spunk: "Not only do I like spunk, but you've got to have it," she said. "If you don't have it, get it." Katie certainly has it, about six figures worth.
The Couric selection was debated on campus. One editorialist was anti-Couric, saying rival Oklahoma State graduates would hear President Bush, and OU got a "news reporter." The counterpoint was reliably anti-Bush, claiming that he's failed everything he's tried (including keeping the country safe) and Couric was a much better choice. Her on-air colonoscopy was "ballsy."
And then there's the guy who went too far in his anger that at the end of his college rainbow, Katie got the pot of gold.