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The following is a transcript of Mr. McDonald’s commencement speech to the 2007 graduating class of Higbert Community College and Vocational School in Akron, Ohio. At the insistence of PopMatters’ legal counsel, we must note here that Mr. McDonald was never paid for the commencement appearance, was not actually invited, delivered the speech last Thursday for some reason, and is currently facing civil litigation and several criminal charges.


Greeting and salutations, humbly endeavoring students!


I am honored to appear before you today. Too long has it been! Looking out upon your eager upturned faces, I am of course reminded of my own youth. For I, too, once strode the hallowed sidewalks and fertile parking lots of Higbert Community College and Vocational School.


I remember it well. As an innocent youth of tender sensibilities, I walked with certain trepidation those first few days. Dressed smartly in my schoolboy cap and assless leather chaps, as was the fashion, I would swing my broadsword in great sweeping arcs, to steel my resolve and discourage adjacent pedestrians. Singing Portuguese drinking songs and (later, during the Troubles) Appalachian disco, I vowed to meet the challenges of higher education head-on.


Ah, the memories. We did not have notebook computers or pencils in our day, of course, but we made do with what we could afford. Sharpened twigs, mostly, dipped in industrial resin or linseed oil. Then, as now, a favorite studying spot was the haunted labyrinth beneath the south campus library annex. There is something about the eerie, dead silence there that seems conducive to higher thinking, and even the occasional screams of eldritch terror heightened our sense of purpose.


There are those who say that it was a mistake to erect the Higbert campus atop the sanctified Chippewa Burial Grounds for the Criminally Insane (later the LeVay Memorial Sanitarium for Lepers and Satanic Cultists), but I say this is the kind of bold initiative that has made our institution great.


Many are the landmarks I recall with fondness. Some still standing; some lost to the mists of time. Sniper’s Bell Tower, the controversially-named centerpiece of our campus. The Old Granite Well, said to have been dug by monkeys 93,000 years ago, in the jungles of the Amazon, and moved here at some point, by someone. And the proud bronze statue of our beloved and hermaphroditic founder, Douglas Penelope Higbert, the moss-covered genitalia still ambiguous after all these years…


Higbert, of course, was an early champion of the liberal arts education, and thus does our institution proudly carry on in his and her name. I remember well the first few weeks, as broad new vistas of knowledge opened before me. Many were the hours spent studying the freshman curriculum—cosmetology and aikido, theoretical roofing and tesseracts.


It was not all toil and endeavor. In the evenings we would participate in the most popular vocational electives, stitching denim-and-squirrel-hide vests, or performing exploratory spinal surgery on one another. How I envy you all today, and the last few years you’ve spent here.


I do, however, grieve for many of the traditions that have somehow been lost. I’m told Higbert no longer hosts the impromptu “Higby” parades, in which students would abduct, anesthetize, and decorate the instructors with spackling paste and glitter. Mounted diagonally on the sides of alpaca-drawn stagecoaches, the faculty would pass in silent dignity as we pelted them with lacquered popcorn and peat samples from the agriculture building.


Saturdays in autumn, we would all gather at the stadium in our houndstooth jackets and dental prostheses to cheer on the team. Voices raised in unison, we would root on our beloved Fightin’ Chippewa Leper Cultists, and hoist aloft our mugs filled with dark mead, seltzer, and spinal fluid. Later, we would steal away in pairs (occasionally, threesomes or larger groupings) to make an amorous rendezvous beneath the stars, the bleachers, or the Provost.


As you well know, many Higbert alums have gone on prestigious careers in the arts and sciences: James Dewar, inventor of the obsidian shale contact lens and mechanical crotch-puncher… Kathleen Hunsucker, the first woman to orbit Cleveland… Bagpipe prodigy Than “Skipper” Nguyen… that bipolar pederast, Jeremy Irons.


Yes, ours is a long and storied tradition, fellow Higbertites, and I know you shall carry forth our proud heritage. I salute you all. So join me if you will, one last time, as we sing our beloved alma mater…


The transcript ends with jumbled audio of a cassette player being activated and the first few bars of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, followed by the squawk of bullhorns and police sirens. Contributions to the McDonald Bail Bond and Legal Defense Fund can be sent care of this publication. Thank you for your concern.

Glenn McDonald writes about popular culture from his home in lovely Chapel Hill, NC. His humor essays have been described as "grammatically consistent" and "remarkably frequent". He is editor of the Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me daily news quiz at NPR.org, and a film critic at the Raleigh News & Observer. He lives virtually at www.glenn-mcdonald.com.


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