EW Staff
June 17, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

For college students, graduation means: (a) telling your folks you have no job prospects, (b) moving out of the dorm, (c) listening to a famous person talk about the meaning of life at commencement, (d) all of the above. If you said (d), you deserve that sheepskin. We listened in on some recent graduations featuring celebrity speakers. Here’s what we learned:

Why I’m here

“I fall into the category [of commencement speakers] whose own children are grown up and who are therefore eager for the opportunity to lecture somebody else’s.”
-Ted Koppel at Catholic University, Washington, D.C.

“I often stand in a stadium full of people and ask myself the same question, ‘How the hell did I end up here?'”
-Sting at Berklee College of Music, Boston

“[As a commencement speaker] you don’t have to be intelligent, you just have to create that impression. This can usually be accomplished by [making] a reference to Kafka, even if you’ve never read any of his, or her, works.”
-Bob Newhart at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles

Let me tell you about my business

“We have reconstructed the Tower of Babel, and it is a television antenna.”
-Ted Koppel

“I sometimes think the media has dreamed our history up.”
-Oliver Stone at the University of California at Berkeley

Deep thoughts

If we drink from the well, we have to replenish the well.”
-Steven Spielberg at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles

“Life and the living of it is not all that complicated, and the sum total of it pretty much comes down to love, respect, and kindness, along with some homegrown tomatoes in late summer.”
-Robert James Waller at Buena Vista College, Storm Lake, Iowa

“The optimist believes in the triumph of hope over expectations, my favorite definition of which is: an accordion player with a beeper.”
-Ted Koppel at Tufts University, Medford, Mass.

“To be good leaders, you have to have good followers — people who are willing to let somebody cast a vote that might hurt their pocketbooks.”
-Cokie Roberts at Boston College

“It’s going to be really hard to be unpopular with popular people. Now, being unpopular with the unpopular people is always cool — I should know.”
-Whoopi Goldberg at Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio

Welcome to the real world

“It’s a tough time. People are starving. They’re going nuts. It’s weird. Buckle up.”
-Whoopi Goldberg

“You guys are in deep trouble and you gotta face it. You don’t have a job. You don’t know how to look for a job. You don’t know where the job is. McDonald’s doesn’t mind if you were a math major.”
-Bill Cosby at Bryant College, Smithfield, R.I.

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