Have I mentioned that EphBlog has a time machine? Tres convenient. I tested it out by going forward to Commencement 2005 and listening to Thomas Friedman’s speech. I was too lazy to write down the whole thing, but here is a typical paragraph.

Like all my friends I enrolled at the University of Minnesota. But unlike many of my friends, or any of my friends, I decided to major in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies. There were not a lot of kids at the University of Minnesota studying Arabic back then. Norwegian, yes; Swedish, yes; Arabic, no. But I loved it; my parents didn’t mind, they could see I enjoyed it. But if I had a dime for every time one of my parents’ friends said to me, “Say Tom, your Dad says you’re studying Arabic, what are you going to do with that?” Well, frankly, it beat the heck out of me.

The rest of the speech was [will be — ed. Time travel makes my head hurt.] fine. Friedman tells a few too many goofy stories, but he is obviously a practiced speaker. And all the muckety-mucks at the College have a great deal of fun rubbing shoulders with a three time Pulitzer Prize winner.

Now the cynics among you will claim that I don’t really have a time machine, that all I did was read what Friedman said at the Yale Commencement in 2003:

Like all my friends I enrolled at the University of Minnesota. But unlike many of my friends, or any of my friends, I decided to major in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies. There were not a lot of kids at the University of Minnesota studying Arabic back then. Norwegian, yes; Swedish, yes; Arabic, no. But I loved it; my parents didn’t mind, they could see I enjoyed it. But if I had a dime for every time one of my parents’ friends said to me, “Say Tom, your Dad says you’re studying Arabic, what are you going to do with that?” Well, frankly, it beat the heck out of me.

and at Washington University Commencement in 2004:

Like all my friends, I enrolled at the University of Minnesota, but unlike my friends I decided to major in Arabic. There were not a lot of kids at the University of Minnesota studying Arabic back then. Norwegian, yes; Swedish, yes; Arabic, no. But I loved it. My parents didn’t mind. They could see I enjoyed it. But if I had a dime for every time one of my parents’ friends said to me, “Say, Tom, your dad tells me you’re studying Arabic. What in the world are you going to do with that?” Well, frankly, it beat the heck out of me . . .

Well, maybe I don’t really have a time machine. But I hate the way the College insists on having big name commencement speakers who obviously have no special connection to Williams, who might just as easily be somewhere else saying the same things. I suspect that Friedman will not be as pathetic an example of this as David Halberstam was last year. But his speech will not be special; it will not be directed to the Williams graduates of 2005; it will not be heart-felt.

I think that is a shame.

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