Speaker Barry was also made an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, an award that occasioned the ill-fitting tam seen in the video above, as well as a new title—Doctor Nursey—conferred by pre-kindergarteners with whom she works at the University of Wisconsin. (Previous aliases include Professor Chewbacca and Professor Old Skull)
Barry kept things lively by mixing in some tried and true material from other public appearances, including her Filipino grandmother’s belief in the aswang, a poem set to music (here “Cotton Song” by Harlem Renaissance poet, Jean Toomer) and the story of the collaborative cartoon, “Chicken Attack by Jack.”
This last anecdote contains a strong indictment of contemporary society’s screen addiction, and it is heartening to see the graduates—members of the last generation to pre-date the Internet—listening so attentively, no one texting or tweeting as the camera pans the crowd.
When Barry exhorted them to shout out the names of their three most inspiring teachers on the count of three, most did!
For me, this was the most thrilling moment, though I also appreciated the advice on the best time to schedule oral surgery, and a blissful untruth about Evergreen State College’s application process circa the mid-70s.
Not your typical commencement speech… those lucky, lucky ducks!
Readers, we invite you to get in the spirit and celebrate the Class of 2015 by “shouting” the names of your most inspirational teachers in the comment section below.
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Congratulations, graduates, especially the members of NYC’s most freshly forged theater company, Rascal Arts. Follow her @AyunHalliday