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The Cast of The Army Show: Phi Beta Kappa

Welcome friends, parents, siblings and distinguished guests to the commencement exercises for the 1999 graduating class of Celebrity University. My name is Dr. Whalen, and I'm the dean of students here at CU. Over the past few years, I've gotten to know this class. Seen them struggle through the tough times and cherish the happy times, always together. I'm proud to say each and every one of them is like a member of my own family.

When this university was founded nearly a decade and a half ago, the cries of derision and scorn nearly drowned out the message of hope we were trying to instill. "Why do celebrities need a university?" these Doubting Thomases asked. Well, I think its safe to say in the years since then, even our harshest critics can't be any less than astounded at what we have acheived.

Take a little trip down memory lane with me, if you will. The year was 1985 and foreign celebrities were all the rage. Duran Duran and The Scorpions ruled the Billboard charts with an iron fist. Australians like Paul Hogan, Jocko and Yahoo Serious were doing upward of six talk shows a day. People magazine was wall-to-wall Canadians.

Our celebrities were being ignored and marginalized for one simple reason: they were stupid. Ask Lee Horsley what he thought of the Laffer curve and you'd get nothing but a blank stare and twitching mustache. Heather Thomas was interviewed about Gary Hart's failed campaign and the former Fall Guy star responded, "His wife is so good on Entertainment Tonight, why does he need to be president?"

Knowing a crisis when it saw one, the U.S. government sounded a clarion call to this country's leading institutions of higher learning: our celebrities must once again be the smartest celebrities on the planet. No matter what the cost.

Much like the U.S. Navy's Top Gun Fighter Weapons School was established during the Vietnam war to help U.S. fighter pilots regain air superiority, nearly a dozen educators, scientists and CEOs worked tirelessly to win back what had been stolen from us by the Schwarzeneggers, the Siegfrieds and Roys.

I'm proud to say that their efforts have paid off and that the class of 1999 is the smartest group of famous people you are ever going to meet.

But we here at the university can't take all the credit. We must let the hard-working producers of television staples such as ET, Access Hollywood and Extra share some of the glory. After all, who would know how smart our celebrities are if they were never given a chance to let their intellect shine through?

Take Tim Allen, CU class of '92, for instance. Were it not for an Entertainment Tonight segment on Hollywood's reaction to the news China has stolen our nuclear secrets, we would never have learned of Mr. Allen's deep appreciation for quantum physics and the fact he knows not only what Schrödinger's cat is, but where the kittens are as well.

We here at CU are very proud of our physics and international relations departments and the wonderful job they did in prepping our alumni on the intricacies of nuclear espionage. As a result of our rigorous educational standards, America was enlightened by Jenna Elfman utilizing Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicles as a metaphor for her wardrobe choices on Emmy night.

Later on in the segment, Gerard Depardieu offered his view on Chinese spying: "I like won-tons." Clearly, this poor undereducated Frenchman is not a Celebrity University graduate.

But it's not simply international affairs where our alumni shine. The tragedy at Littleton, Colorado was indeed a horror, but if there was any sliver of a silver lining, it was in the courageous vanguard of celebrities who were willing to lay it all on the line and tell the world what a bad thing gun violence in our schools is.

What cold-hearted monster could not be swayed by the persuasive arguments of such luminaries as Scott Baio and That Guy Who Played Webster's Father's Wacky Friend who had the intestinal fortitude to stand up and be counted among the few who believe children shooting children is a national shame?

And who better to off-handedly dismiss claims that a violent entertainment industry should perhaps re-evaluate its role in society than celebrities manufactured and employed by that industry?

Yes, our entire country owes a debt of gratitude to television, both to the syndicated entertainment shows and to the producers at respectable network news divisions who have seen the light and know that not only does a popular singer like Steve Lawrence know as much about the inner workings of our government as Lawrence Eagleberger, he's much more personable and less likely to use big words.

The message we here at the University have tried so hard to drill into our students is finally understood in newsrooms and TV studios across the land: Being famous means your opinions count. Every Joe Lunchbox, Harriet Homemaker and Maynard Muskievoter from Santa Monica to Fort Lauderdale cares about what Calista Flockhart thinks is wrong with campaign finance reform.

And why do her opinions matter? In addition to being attractive and famous, she plays a lawyer on TV. They don't give those jobs to just anybody you know. Ugly people simply aren't qualified. That leaves it up to the beautiful people, the famous stars making several million dollars a year to speak for all of America, even the less fortunate, ugly ones.

That's why the entire CU faculty was just tickled pink to see that one of our former graduates, Warren Beatty, might be running for President next year. In addition to his four years of study here at our facility, Warren has shaken hands with President Clinton more than once and has played both a Communist revolutionary and a wacked-out Senator in movies. What more do you need on a resume?

Being a celebrity isn't just about being famous anymore. It's a heavy responsibility. And we here at CU were here to help guide you along the path to that responsibility. But we aren't the ones that make you important and smart.

Being on TV makes you important and smart. Thank you and congratulations.


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