's Bruce Quoted in Syracuse's Post-Standard

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2004/02/16 13:49:20 (permalink)'s Bruce Quoted in Syracuse's Post-Standard

The Post-Standard published an article about Syracuse University's selection for this year's commencement speaker, Phylicia Rashad. Columnist Jeff Kramer turned to's Bruce for a professional opinion on why so many graduating students are adamantly disappointed.

Full Article:

Phylicia Rashad's Profile:

Thanks to Jeff Kramer, Contibuting Columnist for the Post-Standard. The Post-Standard is a daily newspaper located in Syracuse, NY. Jeff can be reached at [email protected]

Bring on Rashad as speaker
February 16, 2004


During a courtesy shuttle ride home from Volvo, I thought it might be fun to sacrifice my young driver on the fires of the Syracuse University commencement speaker train wreck.

"Do people know who Phylicia Rashad is?" I asked.

The kid thought about it.

"I never heard of him," he concluded.

I guess this is where we concede that SU didn't win the celebrity speaker sweepstakes for its 150th commencement on Mother's Day.

Last year's speaker was Bill Clinton, and the year before that was Rudy Giuliani.

This year it'll be the woman who played Clair Huxtable on "The Cosby Show," a sitcom that finished its eight-year run when most of SU's graduating seniors were in fifth grade.

Apparently Weezy Jefferson was booked solid.

Or maybe Weezy was too edgy for a student search committee jonesing for a noncontroversial black woman speaker. By that standard, Rashad must have seemed like the mother lode.

"Oh, Cliff. You're not going to try to fix that shower tile by yourself, are you?"

Yet the noncontroversial choice is generating controversy. Some fear the selection of Rashad is so lacking in luster that it could cost the university accreditation (yet another worry for incoming chancellor Nancy Cantor), or worse, re-aggravate hoop star Gerry McNamara's groin injury.

Fumed one letter writer in the Daily Orange student newspaper: "By selecting Rashad (a "B" celebrity at best), you are then saying that we are a "B" university and a "B" student body, and that is not what I came here to learn."

Let's not push it. I would have been thrilled to have Phylicia Rashad give the commencement address when I graduated from Western Washington University. In 1985. After drinking for days.

Why can't SU students be equally gracious?

It's not as if Rashad's a has-been. She's a dedicated philanthropist and accomplished actress slated to star with the legendary thespian P. Diddy (Super Bowl halftime show, multiple felony acquittals) in a Broadway rendition of "Raisin in the Sun." (Note to Sidney Poitier: If you have a grave picked out, now would be a good time to roll over in it.)

She's also known for her devotion to the teachings of the supposedly celibate Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa, who, prior to his death in 1982, was accused of extracting sexual favors from young girls in the name of spiritual enlightenment.

More impressive still, Bruce Goldman, who co-founded, a Web site that ranks celebrities on their annoyingness, rated Rashad 13th - between Adolph Hitler and Joan Rivers - on his 2002 list.

"She just might be the most pompous, self-absorbed person on the planet," the site says.

Bruce elaborated to me: "She has an air of aristocratic perfection right down to the way she tightly crosses her legs. Her speech pattern and attitude remind me of a teacher peering over her glasses as she berates you."

I say bring her on. SU could have done far worse than Rashad, and if you don't believe me, I have one word for you:


Maybe next year.

© 2004 The Post-Standard
< Message edited by Marc -- 2/16/2004 1:53:24 PM >

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