Life is an elective

Jon Stewart, who was graduated from William and Mary in 1984, was awarded an honorary doctorate.

I am honored to be here and to receive this honorary doctorate. When I think back to the people that have been in this position before me from Benjamin Franklin to Queen Noor of Jordan, I can’t help but wonder what has happened to this place. Seriously, it saddens me. As a person, I am honored to get it; as an alumnus, I have to say I believe we can do better. And I believe we should. But it has always been a dream of mine to receive a doctorate and to know that today, without putting in any effort, I will. It’s incredibly gratifying. Thank you. That’s very nice of you, I appreciate it.

I’m sure my fellow doctoral graduates — who have spent so long toiling in academia, sinking into debt, sacrificing God knows how many years of what, in truth, is a piece of parchment that in truth has been so devalued by our instant gratification culture as to have been rendered meaningless — will join in congratulating me. Thank you.

As Andrew Sullivan says, the speech is very good.

About Joanne


  1. Hilarious…

    I wonder if it was received well, or if people got all snooty because he wasn’t serious enough…

  2. Bill Leonard says:

    …and, he is on target. So Queen Noor also has received an honorary doctorate — and her contribution to the world is what? King Abdullah? Must be nice to get a doctorate, even an honorary one, for being the third (or was it the fourth?) wife of some little Arab auotcrat from a turd world country who was desparate to have sons.

  3. Pretty sure Noor is Abdullah’s stepmother. IIRC, some people over there didn’t want her son to be the king, becuase she’s American and she might “control” him. Abdullah’s mom was a Brit, I guess she moved back to Britain.

  4. Ken Two says:

    First a confession. I don’t know the name Jon Stewart. So as I read the speech my only thoughts were of comparable reactions as a parent to the commencement speaker at the college my daughter attends and parents at W&M. We listened to Roman Catholic Cardinal Arinze talk about values but in a style quite different than Mr. Stewart.

    I couldn’t find Andrew Sullivan’s comments on the Stewart remarks. He may well have focused on the underlying theme of Stewart’s speech which is quite positive. But stylistically… not my thing. And that’s what is so bothersome about our public discourse. It too often lacks grace and is too course. And adults don’t often set the standards as high as they should in settings that cry out for some seriousness.

    According to Kay Hymowitz in an article in City Journal, referring to young people: “What is emerging is a vital, optimistic, family-centered, entrepreneurial, and yes, morally thoughtful, citizenry.” I’ll bet that includes the kids at W&M.

    I wonder if it was the class who suggested Mr. Stewart, or a 40 something administration Boomer who watches reruns of Cheers at night, and thinks all fame warrants attention.

  5. So what is Jon Stewart’s claim to fame? I never heard of the guy, and I don’t feel like bothering to google him to find out. Anybody?

  6. Jon Stewart is the host of the Daily Show on Comedy Central. The show is a satire on other news shows, and yet it still occasionally manages some sharp commentary that highlights a lot of hypocracy on both sides of the political fence (even if the show definitly leans to the left). I don’t agree with some of Stewart’s politics, but he remains a very, very funny man and the show is absolutely brilliant.

  7. Nina D. says:

    Stewart’s satire does lean to the left, but in the past he’s described his politics as conservative (seems like a john mccain conservative, not a bush conservative though).

    The speech wasn’t all that good. For one, he made an obvious error on joking that “We declared war on terror—it’s not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I’m sure we’ll take on that bastard ennui.”

    Terror, of course, is a noun.

  8. Joanne Jacobs,

    I may be blind, but I can’t find your email address on your page. Could you please send it to me?

    Jan Nordgreen

  9. I read somewhere that Jon Stewart’s show on Comedy Central is a primary news source for many college-age kids, so in a frightening way, this is probably the same kind of thing as having Walter Cronkite speak at a commencement in 1965.

  10. I’m a senior at WM. I think the senior class voted for him. He is quite popular on campus and has come and spoken several times before.

  11. Michael says:

    “Terror,” in the sense of “war on terror,” is not a noun.

  12. Roy W. Wright says:

    “Terror,” in the sense of “war on terror,” is not a noun.

    Well, that’s news to those of us who speak English.


    If it’s not a noun, what part of speech is it?

  14. For one thing, I think Noor was Hussein’s fourth wife; for another, she was the one who lasted until his death. She was also, in a part of the world in which prominent women who value both tradition and liberty are not exactly overrunning the place, a woman who used her degree in urban planning to spearhead a number of social programs. What the usual standards for honorary doctorates from William and Mary have been since Ben Franklin, I don’t know; but I rather got the impression that Stewart was saying he was less worthy than Franklin and Queen Noor.