It’s embarrassing to watch as various news outlets chide Northwestern seniors for their pissing-and-moaning about their commencement keynote speaker, Mayor Richard M. Daley. Some editorialists have called these responses “whiny,” “arrogant,” and “entitled;” and it’s true—they are.
I understand that Mayor Daley may not be the most thrilling speaker, and it’s possible that Daley’s political and social ties to Bienen contributed to his post, but it’s humiliating to the rest of the Northwestern community when some overindulged seniors gripe all over the comments section of the Daily online, reaffirming the rest of the world’s suspicions that Northwestern students and graduates are cosseted, pretentious beings that would refuse to condescend to a speech given by the mayor of one of the most thriving metropolises.
In response to these complaints, Bienen told one student to "grow up” and the Tribune reminded seniors that while Daley isn’t perfect, his “chosen career confronts him with the challenges of urban poverty, and gang killings of youngsters, and infant mortality, and racial rivalries, and broken families galore—and the many of his disadvantaged constituents who yearn desperately for, yes, world-class educations.” These responses are completely just.
But no response could be more apt (or prescient) than Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s final word of advice to my fellow graduates at last year’s commencement: “Finally, don’t be an ass.”
“I mean that, I do,” she said. “I’m not trying to be glib. Be nice to people and be considerate. Check in with yourself every once in a while, and ask yourself: Am I being an ass? You’ll be surprised how often the answer is yes.”
If only she had gotten to some of those grousers in the Class of 2008 first. [See her speech here.]