Colbert tells PU grads: ‘Leave the world alone’

By Katie Wagner/Staff Writer
Class Day for Princeton University graduates, which was held on Cannon Green behind Nassau Hall on Monday morning, brought its usual motivational and congratulatory words from administrators and classmates.
   The final speaker, however, didn’t include even a hint of encouragement for the pursuit of intellectual endeavors such as the graduates had become accustomed to hearing.
   Stephen Colbert, the personality-driven, high-status, political pundit anchorman on Comedy Central’s satiric program “The Colbert Report,” urged the Class of 2008 to “leave the world alone.”
   ”I don’t mean to come here yelling at you, but frankly I’m a little scared of you. … You people are go-getters,” Mr. Colbert said. “All the practical thinkers told you to change the world. Gandhi said, ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world,’ but may I remind you that he drank his own urine.”
   ”He added, “Isn’t this election year change enough? May I remind you that you are the last class to graduate under George W. Bush. . . don’t hide your grief. . . You might feel like you need to save the world, but let me remind you that the job of savior looks like a really hard one. … Don’t hide your grief. …
   ”All I’m saying is you need to have the same courage to fight for what you believe is right, unless someone doesn’t like it. You might feel like you need to save the world, but let me remind you that the job of savior looks like a really hard one. … Wouldn’t it be easier for you to pick up your remote and follow me?”
   The comedian received chuckles from the audience throughout his speech, even following his insulting of the orange and black class jackets that the majority of the graduating students wore to the event. An uproar of laughter followed the one-time candidate for U.S. president’s rattling off the names of several speeches he had recently prepared, including an inaugural address and post-impeachment address.
   He was even welcomed to the stage with chants of “U.S.A.,” with one member of the class simultaneously holding up a stuffed bear head in honor of the pronunciation of the television personality’s last name.
   Mr. Colbert was also presented with a class jacket and a plaque consisting of a large mirror with an image of his face at the top. The plaque was inscribed: “The Great Princeton Class of 2008 Understandable Vanity Award. ” In a press conference following the event, he said that while his character from “The Colbert Report” had a problem with the jacket, the real Stephen Colbert thought it was “beautiful.”
   ”I was really, truly honored to be here,” he said.
   Mr. Colbert wasn’t the only individual honored during Class Day. Students dedicated to serving communities from as far as Peru to as close as the Princeton campus, as well as varsity athletes who excelled on the playing field and in the classroom were presented various awards. Several members of the university faculty and staff were also inducted as honorary members of the class.
   The university’s president Shirley Tilghman, class President Tom Haine and class member Mark Bur were among the event’s other speakers.
   Mr. Haine said he didn’t think college would be the best time of his and his classmates’ lives, but only the best time they’d had so far.
   ”The vision of future looks more lush than this idyllic scene. …” he said. “We should all take a well-deserved moment to bask in what we’ve accomplished. … We are the first Princeton class to have survived the full four years of grade deflation. To top it all off this year we’ve all written a small book. Fellow classmates, a very hearty congratulations to you all.”