Culture Quiz: Celebrity Graduation Speeches

Can you correctly match the graduation speech to the celebrity who delivered it?

Photo: University of Texas Arlington

It's that time of year again: Newly minted graduates leave the ivy-covered quads of their youth and venture out into a world that promises futures that are … well, not exactly bright at the moment. But at least they're braced by the wisdom of the notable people who take the time to give them a symbolic pat on the butt before they head out to the playing field.

But just how unique is the advice famous people give to the next generation? Can you correctly guess who gave which graduation speech?

—Michael Y. Park is a writer living in New York City and a regular contributor to

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1.  "If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now."

A. Ellen Degeneres

B. Kurt Vonnegut

C. Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich

D. George Hamilton

2.  "Today is the day you enter into the real world, and I should give you a few pointers on what it is. It's actually not that different from the environment here. The biggest difference is you will now be paying for things, and the real world is not surrounded by a three-foot brick wall."

A. Jon Stewart

B. Rush Limbaugh

C. Steve Jobs

D. Timothy Geithner

3.  "The last time I was invited to Harvard it cost me $110,000, so you'll forgive me if I'm a bit suspicious."

A. Matt Damon

B. Bill Gates

C. Conan O'Brien

D. Jeremy Lin

4.  "Out of the many here assembled, it is the heart of he or she that I seek who looks at a life of vapid materialism, of capitalist excess, and finds it simply intolerable. It may be 100 of you, or 50, or even 10, or even one of you who makes that choice. I am here to honor and applaud that choice and to warn you that, though the suffering may indeed be great, it is nothing to the joy of doing the right thing."

A. Bono

B. Rick Santorum

C. Ralph Nader

D. Mumia Abu-Jamal

5.  "As happy as I am to look out and see all of your faces, I understand there are some of you who are not too happy to see mine. To the students who invited me, thank you, I am honored. To the students who object to my presence, well, you've got a point. I, too, would have chosen someone else."

A. Salman Rushdie

B. Jerry Springer

C. Ann Coulter

D. Henry Kissinger

6.  "I'd like to do a quote from one of my favorite authors, R.L. Stein: 'Read, read, read.' Just don't read one type of book. Read different books by different authors so you develop different styles."

A. Paris Hilton

B. Dakota Fanning

C. James Franco

D. J.K. Rowling

7.  "The lesson I want to share with you is this: If you ever get asked to head up an important search committee, say yes."

A. Dick Cheney

B. John Wayne

C. Mitt Romney

D. Stephen Colbert

8.  "I took a class that studied Japanese haiku. Haiku, for the uninitiated, is a 15th-century form of poetry, each poem having 17 syllables. Haiku is fully understood only by the Zen masters. As I recall, one of my academic advisers was worried about my selection of such a specialized course. He said I should focus on English."

A. John Irving

B. George W. Bush

C. Stephen King

D. Barack Obama

9.  "So next year, if you need a six-foot-two forward with a decent jumper, you know where I live."

A. Will Smith

B. L.A. Lakers Hall of Famer Jerry West

C. Arnold Schwarzenegger

D. Barack Obama

10.  "You are no longer tadpoles. The time has come for you to drop your tails and leave this swamp. But I am sure that wherever I go as I travel around the world, I will find each and every one of you working your tails off."

A. Dolly Parton

B. Willie Nelson

C. Billy Bob Thornton

D. Kermit the Frog

NOTE: Scroll down for answers and explanations.

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1. (C) Though much-forwarded e-mails and erroneous Internet sites falsely attributed the quote to Vonnegut, the author was Schmich, who wrote the theoretical graduation speech for her column in 1997.

2. (A) Stewart was speaking at the graduation of his alma mater, the College of William & Mary, in 2004.

3. (C) O'Brien's 2000 Harvard speech continued: "I'd like to announce up front that I have one goal this afternoon: to be half as funny as tomorrow's commencement speaker, moral philosopher and economist Amartya Sen. Must get more laughs than seminal wage-price theoretician."

4. (D) The controversial convict, serving a life sentence for the murder of a police officer (his supporters say he didn't receive a fair trial) had his prerecorded words played for the commencement ceremony for Evergreen State College in 1999.

5. (B) At the 2008 Northwest School of Law graduation ceremony, Springer continued: "Let's be honest, I've been virtually everything you can't respect: a lawyer, a mayor, a news anchor, and a talk-show host. Pray for me; if I get to heaven, we're all going."

6. (C) Franco's words came from a tongue-in-cheek graduation speech he videotaped after he backed out of giving the 2009 commencement speech at UCLA amid an uproar over his selection.

7. (A) Vice President Dick Cheney, who was referring to the fact that he selected himself as George W. Bush's running mate in 2000, spoke at Brigham Young University in 2007.

8. (B) Notoriously tongue-tied President George W. Bush, speaking at his alma mater, Yale University in 2001, continued: "I still hear that quite often. But my critics don't realize, I don't make verbal gaffes; I'm speaking in the perfect forms and rhythms of ancient haiku."

9. (D) Barack Obama, who spoke at Notre Dame in 2009, gave an inoffensive speech despite protests by antiabortion activists over his presence.

10. (D) Everyone's favorite green amphibian Muppet spoke at Southampton College in 1996.

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