Screw Commencement Speeches: Give Grads Goody Bags

By , Columnist

Swag for grads? The time has come. Millionaire actors get showered with suitcases full of free stuff during Hollywood's "awards season" for pretending to be other people. Big ticket fund-raisers hand out gift-packed shopping bags to wealthy patrons. Convention-goers receive canvas sacks brimming with vendor-contributed merchandise.

How about showing some love to people who could really use a boost?  

Rhode Island School of Design got the ball rolling this season by handing out a "starter kit" to each graduating student.  

College administrators might complain that a gifts-for-grads program would prove too expensive, but here's a suggestion: eliminate commencement speeches. Jersey Shore star Snooki pocketed $35,000 last month for speechifying at Rutgers University, while news anchor Katie Couric once reaped $110,000 for a University of  Oklahoma pep talk. 

Redirect the Wise Celebrity fees toward a more tangible pat on the back.   

As the class of 2011 heads into a droopy job market burdened with six-figure student loan debt, here's a modest proposal. Lighten their load with the Mother of All Congratulatory Gift Bags, College Edition.  

T shirt: Made-in-U.S.A. souvenir tee reads "I went to college and all I got was this lousy flat cap and tassle that makes me look like a time-traveling scholar from another century."

Beverage: Six-pack of Red Bull fuels endless resume re-writing sessions. 

Chewing gum: Jaw-snapping absorbs jitters for job applicants flanked by two dozen other Bachelor of Arts brainiacs.

Smart phone: iPhone, Droid or Blackberry devices enable graduate to pass time playing Angry Bird game apps while standing in line to apply for a gig at Walmart. 

Fitness Club Membership: Grads work off the weight gained watching Dr. Phil on TV while waiting for responses to that killer resume (see item 2 above).

Fragrance: Cologne or perfume conceal the stench of flop sweat as employment counselor evaluates career prospects.  

Trail mix: Survivalist diet prepares the palate for the End of Days. In case the economy tumbles into complete disarray, foraging for nuts and berries become a highly marketable skill. 

Postscript to potential corporate sponsors: They may be broke now but college graduates constitute the  exact demographic you drool over when it comes to TV viewership, viral marketing, and movie merchandising. Earn their lifelong loyalty the old-fashioned way. Give 'em something for nothing.  

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Los Angeles-based writer/musician Hugh Hart covers movies, television, design, art and miscellaneous slices of pop culture for publications including Wired Magazine, Los Angeles Times and New York Times. When he's not interviewing people like Quentin Tarantino or Lindsay Lohan, Hugh likes to glug blackā€¦

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