If you didn’t have the pleasure of hearing Peter Gomes speech at Baccalaureate last spring, you really ought to read it before it disappears into the ether. Gomes is the most impressive speaker that I have ever seen in person.

So, I envy you for the blank slate upon which it is now yours to write. Think of it: after nearly fifty thousand dollars you can reinvent yourselves, for people will look upon you with a Williams degree and will not inquire too closely. That is to your distinct advantage, and you should be grateful for it. I envy you having a blank slate before you, for when I sat where you now sit, in my college now over forty years ago, I was as you are now — totally, blissfully, completely uncomprehending. I, like you today, had not a clue; and so I approach my task this afternoon with an uncharacteristic degree of modesty for a Harvard professor, because I know that what I say to you and what I hope for you will be as toast within forty minutes of the end of these proceedings, and that some of you will even so arrange it this evening that you will not even remember these proceedings. We will watch you stagger across the stage tomorrow, and will be sympathetic and empathetic.

Moreover, as best I can tell, Gomes actually took the time to write a speech that was largely original to the occasion, unlike some other 2004 speakers that I could name. Other examples of Gomes speaking in an academic context can be seen here and here.

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