Entertaining CS Graduation Speech – UC Berkeley ’17

Entertaining CS Graduation Speech – UC Berkeley ’17

October 9, 2019 5 By Stanley Isaacs


Backstage, I went up to Ross and said, “If you upstage me, I’m gonna kill you.” Ross, you are a dead man. And our last speaker is Ross Teixeira. First of all, I am so excited that you all
nominated Professor Shenker nominated as our faculty speaker, because I’ve been waiting
2 years since I took 168 with him to stand on a stage and have the opportunity to try and say anything that could put a speech by Shenker in second place. It’s not easy. Friends, families, guests, public employees,
this was the speech that I had planned to read for you all today, but unfortunately
I haven’t been able to find my glasses, so I’m gonna have a hard time reading this. But that’s no problem! I’m a teacher: I don’t need my eyes, I
think on my feet. But just because I can’t see, doesn’t
mean I’m blind, no! In fact, right now, I know I’m looking out
at about 400 of the most exceptional people I’ve ever met. So insanely intelligent, and yet so young
and free-spirited. Oh, you’ve got your best days ahead of you! Oh, was I talking to… Sorry professors, no offense to you, you’re
certainly some of those things. But when I look out here, see my classmates? Now that is a group of young, exceptional,
and insanely intelligent people that I’m so lucky to have struggled and bonded with
over these past four years, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Oh, here are my glasses! They were in the podium! I was kidding about the not seeing part, by
the way; for anyone who doesn’t wear glasses, if your friend’s ever taken
their glasses off and you thought “Ha! They can’t see what I’m doing right now, they’re
not wearing glasses!” No, we probably saw you. And we haven’t forgotten. I’m talking to you Nick, two years of living
with you wasn’t enough to make that clear? Class of 2017, I’ve gotten to know a lot
of you over the years, and I know that you’re a pretty special bunch. When we’re given a 61C project spec that
isn’t exactly the prettiest spec in the world, we don’t just deal with it. No, we redesign the spec for the staff. Multiple times. And how about when they gave us Amazon servers
to run all our code on, and we accidentally spent $25000 in EC2 credits. (Yeah, good times in 61C.) And hey, we’ve been pretty lucky as a class
too. We came in during transition from EE20/40
to 16A/B, so we had the option of alternative classes. And therefore, I am the ultimate embodiment
of Berkeley Computer Science because I’ve never taken an EE course. We also had the opportunity to have 61B, for
the spring cohort, co-taught by Professor Hilfinger and Professor Hug. Now, for those of you who don’t know, that
means taking Professor Hilfinger’s projects, which he says are designed to “throw us
into the deep end” and have us claw our way out (together) , and you guys never forgot
when that autograder email hit you. And all the while, hearing lectures every
three days a week by — by me, Josh Hug. Hi everybody. So as you know, in contrast to that I’m more
of a warm, fuzzy, make the class an emotionally-resonant experience kind of guy. Even though I might not have actually gotten
to know you in person until maybe, right now. Anyway, I’ll see you in a bit. You get the picture. And speaking of Electrical Engineering, isn’t
it a shame that half our friends aren’t here with us today? They say EECS and CS are pretty much the same
thing, and it’s true, we intermix so fluidly in our techs, helping each other out, making
friends, and then on arguably the most important and emotional day of our college careers, we’re split! If there’s anyone out in the audience, any
EECS students here to support a friend in CS, give me a holler! Awesome! You guys are great friends… but, this is
the “CS Commencement”, so I do feel the need to remind you what makes us, L&S, so
special. Friends, we cannot and should not compare
ourselves to those robotic students – EECS students with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not EECS! You are L&S! You have the love of humanities in your hearts! Well, for some of you anyway. Others, at least in your transcripts. Now I have thoroughly enjoyed my time
at Cal, and I know you all are a massive reason why. You’ve been the source of my laughter and
the target of my jokes, enthusiasm and occasionally my t-shirts. But I know I’m not the only one: I ran those
Facebook groups, I saw what was going down between all of you. We were more than friends: we were a big,
[mostly] happy CS family. And it pains me to say it, but much like the
Von Trapp family from the Sound of Music, this will be the last time we’re together
for a long, long time. For even now, there are drivers waiting outside
this auditorium to take you; I’m talking about the Google buses, the Facebook shuttles, the
Yahoo! Shuttles, maybe an UberCopter; here to take
you away to the promised land of free food and nap pods. But this is your reward: all that time and
hard work you’ve poured into learning CS at Cal, that leaves a permanent and very powerful
mark on your future. And no, I’m not just talking about the sleepy
bags under your eyes. (That’s why I wear glasses!) *unintelligible choking* It’s a true sign
of caliber. Just curious, who out there is off to work
at a tech company after graduation? Wow, that’s a lot of you! See parents, your lineages are in good hands! And if you’re still searching, demand is
crazy! In fact, I’ve got an extra job from Google
from a friend. Who wants it? Who needs it? That is a sad propeller. Before I hand it to Professor Shenker, there’s
one last serious moment I want to share with you all. You know how they tell you not to bring balloons
into the Greek Theatre? Don’t worry Lieutenant Governor, these aren’t
gonna fly off into any power lines. Friends… Actually, can we set the mood, maybe something
kind of sad but also kind of happy too? Yeah, that’s more like it. I know a lot of you are excited to break out
into the real world and leave academia, and others like me, to stick around, explore the
depths of human knowledge and share it with the world. But just remember, after today there’s not
gonna be any TAs pairing you up for ice breakers anymore, and unlike dorms you can’t just
walk into anyone’s house when you feel like it. So remember to treasure the friendships you’ve
made here, don’t lose each other. How about this: I’m gonna take all our memories,
and everything we’ve learned, and stick them in these balloons. And let them go. Hopefully, they’re impervious to popping
(we didn’t take physics). And if they are, they’ll be sailing above our
heads all throughout our lives. When you step into your first job, when you
get married and have a family, those balloons will be sailing on past Jupiter. And whether you work for SpaceX and get us
there by rocket ship, whether you climb those so-called “Towers” of academia, or whether
you’re just doing what you enjoy and sharing that joy, together we’ll keep pushing humanity
upwards, with these four years as our guide. Thanks. Thank you so much for sharing your reflections
and setting such a high standard for the next speaker. And Ross Teixeira. Is he, like, famous? Were those three of the greatest — five of
the greatest speeches I’ve ever heard? Let’s give a hand for the speakers before. Wow! Amazing! I’ve been to 20 graduations and I’ve never
heard 5 speeches like that. That was outstanding. Great stuff.