Stephen Colbert Delivers Funny Farewell to Wake Forest Grads

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Future CBS Late Show host Stephen Colbert delivered Wake Forest University's commencement address Monday to nearly 1,900 graduating students.

Colbert will take over for David Letterman in September, though Letterman signs off this Wednesday night.

Wake Forest University Graduation started at 9 a.m. and was not open to the public. WFMY News 2 was allowed to stream the first five minutes of Colbert's speech.

Highlights of the speech that kept the audience laughing:

Colbert received his Honorary Degree – Doctor of Humane Letters

"I'm a huge fan of humans. I have to thank them for this thing around my neck. There's nothing you want on a chilly day like today than a nice scarf."

Jokes catered to a college audience (several jokes parents didn't understand)

"It's a little embarrassing you all showed up in the same outfit.

Everyone has a black and gold tassel. Or is it blue and white?"

"You weren't supposed to learn biology until marriage."

Wake Forest Traditions

"This is a school that respects tradition. Traditions like rolling the quad with toilet paper after big wins…

Looking at this season's win loss record, you guys saved a lot of paper."

"As great as Wake Forest is, Wake is your past now. It is my responsibility as your commencement speaker to prepare you…"

"No one has any idea what's gonna happen. Not even Elon Musk. That's why he's building those rockets."

Presidential Election – a new generation of voters (social media/Tinder)

"You will have to decide for whom to swipe left and for whom to swipe right."

Legacy / holding yourself to standards

"I have a pretty good idea of what jokes will get laughs and what jokes are iffy."

'"The epitaph on my tombstone will probably read: "Well, I thought it was funny."

From now on, you fulfill your own report card. "Score yourself on a curve. Give yourself extra credit. You are your own professor now."

Prior to the speech, the Good Morning Show spoke with Wake Forest University employer relations specialist Mercy Eyadiel, who said this class of graduates is entering the professional world at a good time. She said research shows the market is currently a "buyer's market," meaning students are often receiving multiple job offers because of increasing competition. Eyadiel also said current trends suggest more students are going to be able to pay back student loans.

"It's an incredible feeling," said student government president Margaret Mulkerrin. "It's an incredible feeling as a graduate, and it's an incredible feeling to be sitting with all of my friends. The fact that it's actually May, and we're here, is surprising to all of us."

During the ceremony, Mulkerrin delivered speech on behalf of her class and in front of her idol.

"I'm a political science major and actually wrote my senior thesis on political humor as a form of political discourse, so I could not be more excited. This seems so personal, and it's so exciting for all of us. I think there's a feeling among the graduates of we don't know what he's going to say. Are we going to see the Stephen Colbert from the Colbert Report, or what are we going to see?"

Graduating senior Ty Kraniak added, "It's a big deal. Anytime you get someone with that big of a name to come here, it's really a testament to the school and really a testament to the connections at this school. (I'm) very happy and very thankful that Stephen Colbert is here today."

Kraniak is of the undergraduate students graduating from Wake Forest University Monday. In two weeks, he flies to Rwanda to serve two years in the Peace Corps.

Colbert compares 'Tumblr to Vietnam War'

Wake Forest 2015 Graduation by the numbers:

1,044 Undergraduates

142 Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

167 School of Law

288 School of Business (graduate programs)

37 School of Divinity

168 School of Medicine (including Physician Assistant Studies)

1,846 Total (6 Fulbright Scholars in the 2015 graduating class)

Commencement: Past and Present

4 Number of graduates in the first graduating class, 1839

12,000 Number of chairs set up on Hearn Plaza

WFU Graduation History:

1964 The year the first black student (Edward Reynolds) graduated

4 Number of honorary degrees awarded this year

1966 First year commencement was held on the Quad, now known as Hearn Plaza; (from 1957 to 1965 commencement was held in Wait Chapel)

4 Number of times rain has forced commencement inside (2010, 1991, 1983, 1973)

2 Number of times commencement has been held off campus (2010 & 1991, Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial coliseum)

1957 First class to graduate on the "new" campus

2 hours Length of commencement speech delivered in 1858 by Solomon Satchwell

1981 Last class to receive sheepskin diplomas

Post Graduation Statistics

In 2014, 98% of Wake Forest students who responded to the first-destination survey reported being employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation.


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