Stephen Colbert showed up at Wake Forest University on Monday afternoon to address the 2015 graduating class. During a hilarious commencement speech, Colbert took the time to rip on the GOP, and urged students to work for a better future than the present we and our parents have given them.
“Wake is your past now, it is my responsibility as a commencement speaker to prepare you for what awaits you in the future,” he told the crowd of close to 2,000. “Here it is: No one has any idea what’s going to happen. Not even Elon Musk, that’s why he’s building those rockets. He wants a ‘plan B’ on another world.”
“It’s time to say goodbye to the person we’ve become, we’ve worked so hard to perfect, and to make some crucial decisions in becoming who we’re going to be. For me, I’ll have to figure out how to do an hour-long show every night,” Colbert told students. “You at some point will have to sleep. I’m told the Adderall wears off eventually. Good luck.”
Colbert explained that the future is uncertain. “The only we can be sure will happen in 2016,” said Colbert, “is that we’ll elect a new President.” Between now and then, he said, we can expect the ever-growing pool of Republican candidates to continue to expand.
“You will perform the ultimate civic duty” in 2016, he told students. “Deciding for whom you will swipe left and for whom you will swipe right, because I think we’re voting on Tinder now — At least the Republicans are; Democrats might be voting on Grindr. I don’t know”
Colbert urged students to have their “own standards,” and to stand up to members of the older generation who will inevitably try to discourage them from their causes and goals:
“Over the years, I have given my work a lot of thought. I have my own standard for success now. I have a pretty good idea of what jokes will get laughs and a pretty good idea of what jokes may be iffy, but I’m going to say them anyway because I kind of like how iffy they are. Those who’ve watched my show over the years know I have made that decision many times. But having my own standards is why I could keep going at times when no one laughed or when I thought the person I was interviewing might throw a punch at me. It’s probably why the epitaph on my tombstone will probably read, ‘Well, I thought it was funny.’”
“Of course, any standards worth having will be a challenge to meet, and most of the time you will fall short,” Colbert said. “but what is nice about having your own set of standards is that from now on you fill out your own report card.”
“Try to make the world good according to your standards,” he added. “It won’t be easy. Get ready for my generation to tell you everything that can’t be done — like ending racial tension, or getting money out of politics, or lowering the world’s carbon emissions. And we should know they can’t be done, after all, we’re the ones who didn’t do them.”
“Your job, pro humanitate, is to prove us wrong — because if you don’t prove us wrong, then forget everything I’ve been saying and instead I’d like to leave you with a bit of wisdom I picked up from a documentary I saw this weekend: Mad Max Fury Road. All you young people really need to succeed in the future is a reliable source of fuel and fanatical cadre of psychopathic motorcycle killers,” he concluded. “May you ride eternal, shiny and chrome.”
It’s a much more compelling and inspiring speech than the one given by former President George W. Bush this weekend at Southern Methodist University, where he told the ‘C’ students that they too can be President some day. His words only highlight the importance of the coming election and the battle that will be waged for America’s future. It’s time for our nation to decide who we really are.
Watch the full speech below:
Please consider supporting the fund. Thank you!
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.