OSU recently held its 2019 Spring commencement, and its speaker was CNN host and Washington Post columnist, Fareed Zakaria. The crowd could not stop laughing at his seemingly sad resting face up on the big screen, but his commencement speech was even more interesting. What started out as a speech about education turned into a bunch of statistics that were not so important for graduation, but he ended on a heartwarming note that made everyone want to text the people most important to them. So good speech after all?
Zakaria started by talking about how educated and like-minded people tend to group together and move from the small towns they grew up in to large cities with more opportunities. This is certainly true in my case, as I am from a small town, but I enjoy Columbus because my ideology aligns better with the people who live here. I found this part of his speech relevant and kind of inspiring. Encouraging students and their families to move to where they can make the most of their lives and be around those who feel similarly was a compelling call to action. This part of Zakaria’s speech also spoke directly to me because I am staying in Columbus as a college graduate.
But then, things got weird. Zakaria went on to talk about statistics in regards to voting, which is already walking a thin line with such a diverse amount of people and a large crowd in The Shoe. I don’t think anyone there will remember the numbers he talked about, but they will remember holding their breath wondering if it was going to get too political. Luckily, no such stance was taken.
Zakaria really got to me with the part of his speech about parents, and how you will never know how much they love you until you have kids, too. It made me text my parents in the stands even though the service was being spotty. The message itself was quite meaningful, but I felt he could have been broader with the family context, simply because everyone has different relationships and family structures. He could have been more inclusive, as not everyone is raised by their parents or has positive relationships with them, and he could’ve expanded on this by simply naming other possible family members, friends, or even significant others.
His point about not fully understanding your parents’ love until you have kids was tear-jerking, but it came across as a bit odd. This may be nit-picky, but as far as graduates who may not want kids or who are content just being “pet-parents” goes, I don’t think they understand their parents’ or other supporters in their lives’ love any less. Though Zakaria wasn’t trying to be narrow-minded, as the main message was to thank those who have loved and supported you throughout your college journey, this part could have been more encompassing. Our class is definitely more inclusive about these types of things, and we think carefully before speaking because we are hyper aware that not everyone has the same type of family structure, and we don’t want to exclude someone accidentally.
Overall, Zakaria’s speech wasn’t bad, but it definitely had areas for improvement. My message to future speakers would be to keep the statistics talk low and the humor high—it’ll engage the crowd better and make them forget how long they’ve been sitting in the sun waiting for the end of the Ph.D. name acknowledgements.