Stephen Colbert Salutes UVA’s Class of 2013

Stephen Colbert Salutes UVA’s Class of 2013

August 16, 2019 32 By Stanley Isaacs


Good morning. I’m Stephen Colbert,
and I want to thank or “thank” the class of 2013
for inviting me here today. Thank you very much. It’s an honor. This is way more
than I expected. I would have done or for free. This is incredibly generous. Thank you. Now, before we get started,
just one little bit of business. Out of courtesy, if anyone
has a cell phone, please take a moment to make
sure that it is turned on. I wouldn’t want any of you
to miss a text or a tweet while I’m giving my speech. In fact, you might want to
take a minute right now, if you’ve got the Twitter
app, take a moment right now and follow my Twitter
feed, it’s @Stephenathome. That’s S-T-E-P-H-E-N-A-T-H-O-M-E
@Stephenathome. Just in case I tweet
anything during the speech. And now then, it is an honor
to be speaking at your 2013 valedictory exercises. I believe that means I am
this year’s valedictorian. And I am as shocked as you
are, because I didn’t make it to many classes this year. You guys must have really
tanked your finals. Thank you for that. I’d also like to think
President Teresa Sullivan. Thank you very much,
President Sullivan. You are way better than that
last president Teresa Sullivan, she was terrible! I am so glad they cut her loose. Good riddance, I say. No, you are clearly
the woman for this job. I’d also like to thank
the Board of Visitors. Board of Visitors
of course, that name goes all the way back to your
founder Thomas Jefferson, who was just trying to put
the local Indians at ease. Just visiting, should be
going home any century now. And that’s just one of the
many unique dignified terms that set UVA apart from
other universities. Instead of freshman,
you have first-years. Instead of a quad,
you call it a lawn. Instead of saying,
we are members of a proud educational tradition
dating back to our nation’s founders, you say Wahoo-Wa. Which begs the eternal
question, Wahoo-Why? Now, I went to
Hampden-Sydney College. Thank you, thank
you, please sit down. And I used to come up
here as much as I could, Because you had
these things back then– I’m not sure what
you call them now– girls. We did not have those
at Hampden-Sydney. And when I could not
find one of those here, I would head over
to the White Spot to get a Grills With to
fill the void in my heart. Literally, my
cardiologist recently found one lodged in there. And early this morning,
I had a little tour around your beautiful campus. And I just asked myself,
why are you leaving? You know what it’s
like out there, right? Plus, this could be the
most spectacular place you’ll ever live. It is the only campus
in America that has been designated a
UNESCO World Heritage site. I believe that means if you try
to carve your name into a desk, UN will send in ground troops. And you’re not going to
top these living conditions unless you’re post-college plan
involves subletting the Taj Mahal. And I just want to say to
students at UVA are incredible. The men are all
gentleman, and the women are all the most beautiful
and intelligent in the world. And I’m not saying that
because I dated a UVA girl. I’m saying that
because I married her. You are graduating from one
of the most highly ranked universities in the nation. US News and World Report named
you the number two public university. Princeton Review named you
the number one best value of a public college,
especially for those of you who showed the initiative
to be born in Virginia. Let’s give it up, a round
of applause for those paying out of state tuition, shall we? Because without those
people, tomorrow, instead of wearing
gowns and mortarboards, you’d be graduating in
ponchos made of hefty bags with used pizza
boxes on your head. But as has been stated before,
the most impressive ranking of all has got to be
Playboy once again, naming you the number one
party school in America. Now, to be clear, I only read
Playboy for the rankings. But I am not surprised by this
honor, because I have seen you in action. When I used to visit
back in the day, I spent a fair amount of
time at the Phi kappa house, which at the time had no doors,
because apparently, they kept getting partied off the hinges. And I won’t go into
more about those days, because I do not remember them. And you know this is an
impressive institution, because it rejected
my application. Yes, in the spring of 1984, I
applied as a transfer student, and at the time, you
could send your essay in after the rest
of the application. Well, apparently,
the admissions board took issue with the content
of my essay, which was none, because I never sent it. So today, President
Sullivan, I would like to submit this
address as my essay. And since this is
a smart school, let me just toss in some SAT
words, syzygy, heterodox, Benedict Cumberbatch. Am I in? I know, I’m not a
Virginia resident. But perhaps the real
reason that UVA is so great is that it trusts its students. You have the nation’s oldest
student run honor code. Say it with me, on
my honor, I pledge that I have neither
given nor received help on this assignment,
so help me Adderall. But my favorite
thing about UVA has got to be your secret
societies, that’s sexy. You got the Zs,
you got, I think, the Illuminati
guy and the Masons and S.H.I.E.L.D. I think some of
you are members of S.H.I.E.L.D. Of course, the most secretive
of all is the 7 Society. Nobody knows who’s in it. I’m not going to
say that I’m a 7. I’m not going to say
that I’m not a 7. I’m just going to say
A vige blumen kraften. Benedict Cumberbatchen. Now, I have to have
all you killed. Now, of course, many of
you already know this, but for the uninitiated,
let me explain. When a member of
the 7 dies, a wreath of black magnolias shaped like
a 7 appears at their grave. And the university chapel chimes
at a seven second intervals, on the seventh dissonant
chord at seven past the hours. All the group’s donations
contain the number seven like it’s $777,777.77 grant
to fund the Mead Endowment. So it appears that the way
you qualify for the sevens is by having crippling OCD. And you know what’s
good for that? Adderall. Now, what is not a secret is
the list of distinguished UVA alums, which is as impressive
as it was easy to copy and paste from Wikipedia. You got Woodrow Wilson, Robert
Kennedy, Janet Napolitano, Katie Couric, Tina Fey, the
painter Georgia O’Keeffe. I love her paintings. They remind me of something I
rarely saw at Hampton Sydney. And of course, Edgar Allan Poe,
or as his roommates called him, Creepy Eddie. I don’t understand why
Lenore couldn’t have just given him a pity date or just
said, I’m busy Saturday night. She didn’t have
to say nevermore. Like most students,
young Mr Poe had a way of signaling
to his roommates if he had a date over. He would hang a sock on the door
or bury a still beating heart under the floorboards,
whichever he had handy. But of course, the greatest
figure associated with UVA is your founder Thomas
Jefferson, TJ, Pres Tommy Jeff, the freckly anti-federalist,
Louisiana Purchy, old Bible Slicer,
or as most Americans know him, the inventor of the
six inch wooden cipher wheel. In founding this
great institution, Jefferson wrote, we
wish to establish in the upper
country of Virginia, a university on a plan so
broad and liberal and modern as to be a temptation to
the youth of other states to come and drink the cup
of knowledge and fraternize with us. And according to Playboy, you
have lived up to that vision. But there’s one
thing about Jefferson that I take issue with, and it’s
this, the scope of his beliefs was too broad. Jefferson’s hard to nail down. These days, we like politicians
to fit into neat categories. And you’re either a conservative
or you are a liberal. But not Jefferson,
he’s not like that. No matter what your
political leanings, you can find something
he said that backs it up. If you don’t trust the
financial industry, he said, I believe that
banking institutions are more dangerous to our
liberties than standing armies. If you’re suspicious of the
federal overreach, he said, when the government fears
the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the
government, there is tyranny. If you question religion,
he wrote, in every country, and in every age, the priest
has been hostile to liberty. And if you’re an advocate
of fiscal austerity, he said, I’m going
to pop some tags, only got $20 in my pocket. I’m a huntin’,
lookin’ for a come up. This is– I’m not
saying that on camera. That, of course, was in a letter
to Secretary of State Ryan Lewis. Also on the one hand, in
Jefferson’s public life as a founding father, we
often see as the embodiment of the white male patriarchy. But in his private life, he
was known for, shall we say, embracing diversity. Very affirmative in his actions. Am I right? I am right, they
did the DNA tests. I’m right on that one. You know what? I’m not going to
say anymore on that. You’ve heard too much
about that in the past. Instead, I’ll just tweet it. OK, there it goes. All right. Now, while that’s arriving
all of your phones right now, I’m going to take
this opportunity to move on to the advice
section of the speech. If you young folks will
take advice from anyone. After all, I don’t
know if you’ve seen it. This week’s Time
magazine called you lazy, entitled narcissists
who are part of the me, me, me generation. So self-obsessed,
tweeting your Vines hashtagging your Spotifies,
and Snapchatting your YOLOs. Your generation needs
everything to be about you, and that’s very upsetting
to us baby boomers, because self-absorption
is kind of our thing. We’re the original
me generation. We made the last 50
years all about us. We took all the money. We soaked up all the
government services. And we’ve deep fried nearly
everything in the ocean. It may seem that all
that’s left for you is unpaid internships, Monday
to Tuesday mail delivery, and, thanks to global
warming, soon semester at sea will mean sailing
the coast of Ohio. Now, in our defense, in
my generation’s defense, how were we supposed to
know that you were coming? We thought it went like this,
every successive generation of mankind, and then us, ta-da! Roll credits. But while we may be leaving you
with an economy with fewer job opportunities for
the new graduate to slip into, while traditional
paths may seem harder to find, that also means
that you may learn, sooner than most generations,
the hard lesson that you must always make the
path for yourself. There is no secret
society out there that will tap you on
the shoulder one night and show you the way,
because the true secret is your life will not be
defined by the society that we have left you. To paraphrase
Robert Bolt, society has no more idea of what
you are than you do, because ultimately, it has
only your brains to think with. Every generation must
define itself, and so make the world
that suits itself. So if you must
find your own path, and we have left
you no easy path, then decide now to
choose the hard path that leads to the life and
the world that you want. And don’t worry if we don’t
approve of your choices. In our benign
self-absorption, I believe we have given you a
gift, a particular form of independence, because you do
not owe the previous generation anything. Thanks to us, you owe
it to the Chinese. So have the courage to follow
the example of your founder Thomas Jefferson, the
greatest mind of that most daring generation, to create
something new for yourselves and lay its foundation
on such principles and organizing its powers
in such form as to you shall seem most likely to affect
your safety and happiness. And know that though he wrote
these words 237 years ago, that this generation, no
less than his generation, has their own opportunity
to recognize and seize that moment. When, in the course
of human events, it becomes necessary for one
people to dissolve the bands that have connected
them with another and assume among the
powers of the Earth your separate and equal station. And for the support of this,
mutually pledge to each other your lives, your fortune,
and your sacred honor. If anyone can do this, it is
the graduates of the university that Jefferson founded. You are his intellectual heirs. In fact, some of you
may be his actual heirs. We’re still testing the DNA. So thank you for this
honor, and congratulations to the class of 2013. Wahoo-Wa.