The following is a transcript of the 2006 Opening Convocation Ceremony of Acme University, presented by the school’s president-for-life Virgil Anderson:
WELCOME FRESHMEN, freshwomen, fresh-GLBTs, and returning freshmen. I extend an enthusiastic welcome to you, the newest members of our university community. While this may be your first convocation ceremony, this beautiful autumn day marks the 75th time I’ve welcomed a new class to the hallowed halls of Acme.
Freshpeople, you are the class of 2010. You are a talented and diverse group—most of you, anyway. You, our new undergraduates, hail from far and wide: India, Turkey, China, Iceland, North America—and Canada! We have students representing all five continents. Excuse me—really? Since when? Oh—Dean Peterson has just informed me that there are now seven continents. In any case, we are honored you are here, and if we have somehow overlooked your continent, please see the registrar after today’s ceremony.
This morning, I see before me 319 “frosh,” rigorously culled from more than 321 applications. Indeed, you are among peers of the highest order here at Acme, and together we begin a journey. To prepare you for the road ahead, Acme University intends to endow you with three of the greatest gifts a solid education can bestow: the thrill of discovery, the habits of a scholarly mind, and online tuition-payment options.
As I look out at you, young people, your youthful ears filled with iPod earbuds, I marvel at the so-called “technology” that has become firmly entrenched in our world. I admit I’ve often been a skeptic. For many years I held firm in the belief that integers were a passing fancy. I thought floors were trendy. My wife will tell you I thought consonants would never pass the test of time. With each new class of undergraduates, I find I am proved wrong over and over again, and happily so. Oh, class of 2010, how will you prove me wrong?
Will you at long last discover a meaningful use for pennies? I think I speak for many here today when I say that, although the penny was created with the best of intentions, it is time to deal with this unit of currency—a tiny piece of metal that costs more to make than its actual value. The challenge can be in no better hands than yours, of that I am sure.
Perhaps you will finally make the dream of the metric system a reality. As I’m sure you know, Congress established the National Bureau of Standards in 1901 to support technical standards for American industry and commerce. Then, last century, there was a major effort to increase the use of the metric system, and Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act of 1975. Clearly the tide to convert the United States to the International System of Units can no longer be stemmed. A new day of weights and measurements is here, and you its sentinels.
Exciting frontiers await you as well: the vast, untapped potential of naming rights. Scientists are working tirelessly to discover the myriad ways that corporations can get their names in the public consciousness. Sporting events, cultural events, stadiums, property—good starts all, but we cannot rest on our laurels. Perhaps one day, you will find a way for churches, or freeways, or perhaps human beings themselves to bear the banner of a corporation. The limitations of what can be named are bound only by your imagination, class of ’10.
And so, fresh–homo sapiens, remember: each of you is here today, not just because of your average SATs but because of those unique qualities that cannot be captured by test scores, or lists of accomplishments, or essays about your cats. We at Acme believe we can prepare you to go out into the world and make a difference. And those of you planning to major in communications or phys ed, just do the best you can. None of us can know where the twists and turns in life’s road will take us in the coming years. Some of you will graduate. Some won’t. You know who you are—we have a pretty good idea, too. So let me leave you with a final thought: timely tuition payments. Go forth and study—for a new dawn, um, dawns before you. MM
Mary Jo Pehl, a Minneapolis writer, graduated from college. Barely.