Trinity College: Commencement and The Pursuit of Cool

On the 20th of May, 2007 The Class of 2007 graduated from Trinity College. As a member of the 2008 class at Trinity, I was hoping to give a final well to the collective consciousness of the Class of 2007, but alas, I have been exiled to a fate of finals on the Isle of Eire. While I will certainly keep in touch with many of the friends I have made over the last three years, I know that there are many friendly acquaintances I will never see again. While this is a natural part of growing up and moving on, I can not help these transient and sentimental feelings.

Enough itchy eye material. I also really wanted to be in attendence for Commencement, because one of my favorite authors, Tom Wolfe, known most notably to me for The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test, was giving the Commencement Address to the Class of 2007 (which included his son).
This is likely the first and last interesting speaker to speak at a Trinity Commencement. Last year we awarded a Doctorate of Letters to woman from Iran, who was a Nobel Prize winner, but instead of having her give the Commencement Address, some former-CEO of TIAA-CREFF and Boeing picked up the mic. He started off giving an interesting speech about how we need to recognize globalization in our lives, and then lost my interest when he started enumerating how to exploit that. My friend Ames and I bounced half-way through it to have a smoke on the third floor of the First-Year residence hall he was RA of, but first we needed to steal our friend Todd’s strawberry papers.

Pretty much this commencement address propelled us into an experience of utter intoxication and self-obliteration. By the time we returned they were already at “M” for diplomas. Soon after it began to rain so hard I felt like Sebastian from The Little Mermaid during his song “Under The Sea”. The only way to counter this was to hide in the tents of graduates I knew to chug beer, wine, champagne, or cocktails. Soon enough I was drunk and commanded by my friend Sarah to steal some bottles of wine from her tent, along with flowers, and take them to Cleo AX(the literary organization we both belong to).

On my way there with two bottles of wine in my outter sport jacket pocket, a freshly opened bottle in my inner jacket pocket, and a tray of flower arrangements between my arms, I ran into my organic chemistry professor/biochemistry advisor. He had dranken a similar amount of beverages as me, and we had a beauteous heart-to-heart confessing or respect and appreciation for one another (This was of course before the Fall of 2006 when I approached him about the idea of dropping my chemistry major to create an interdisciplinary major in Science and Buddhism, and he told me I would never get a job, my life would be a waste, and I would live at home dependent on my parents for the rest of my life. You should have witnessed what he said when I told him I was going through with it.).

Anyway, I got back to Cleo to proceed with an all out last hurrah. We played some pool. Drank some beers and wine, and then we got high. No! Not like that! We walked to the third floor to gain some altitude. Chuck’s bong was attended to. The circle was formed; all was prepared, but we needed to wait for the arrival of Ames after an emergency phone call (and also the parent of one of those forming the circle). They both arrived and the ritual begain. It was 6PM.

The next thing I know I am back in my bed looking at my watch that engraves a greed “1:15″ into my mind. I call my friend Sarah to say good-bye. She was asleep, but awoke to give me a proper send-off, which amongst other fine items included a sweet executive leather chair with wheels! After I kissed her good-night and good-bye, I rode my newly acquired chair down to Cleo to see if anyone was around. All was dead except for Shon and Andrew moping around and stealing left-overs from the food orgy downstairs. Shon is a father now.

I found out the next day that the reason why Ames called me, was because he was being stalked like small prey by a gigantic tiger-like nymphomaniac (whom he nailed some nights before in the empty and abandoned room of one of his first-year residents), and needed to hide-out.

End Digression.

Anyway, this is the press release Trinity sent out about Wolfe’s address. I find it quite appropriate for the crowd he was addressing. If the shoe fits…

Liberal Arts the Key to the Tyranny of Cool, Tom Wolfe Tells Class of 2007 at Trinity College Commencement
HARTFORD, Conn., May 20—Tom Wolfe, legendary journalist, author, and Parent ’07, urged the Class of 2007 members to use their liberal arts education to free themselves from the tyranny of trying to be cool during his speech at Trinity College’s 181st Commencement today.“The urge to be cool is something that seizes everyone’s life,” Wolfe said, describing it as more powerful than sex, greed or pride. The need to be accepted by “the inner ring” of coolest students at any school is expressed in dressing a certain way (tee-shirts, shorts and flip-flops) or engaging in excessive behaviors, Wolfe said.

And, it doesn’t end there. “Cool is going to dog you the rest of your life. It simply gets weirder,” he said. Making his case, Wolfe went on to skewer elite hedge fund managers, who wear $4,000 gold belt buckles with frayed jeans, scorn the idea of answering to a board of directors, and aspire to be rude. Wolfe also described the popular “green” movement as a politically correct way to be spiritual. “Above all it is not cool to let it be known you have religious beliefs,” he said.

Wolfe also poked fun at certain intellectuals, artists, and show business types, caught up in the pursuit of cool.

In the end, Mr. Wolfe offered an alternative.
“To me, the way out of being cool, of always looking for the inner ring, is to remember the power that the liberal arts have given you,” Wolfe told the 514 members of the Class 2007, the 39 Master’s Degree recipients, and the thousands of others gathered at Commencement.

Prior to his speech, Wolfe received a degree of Doctor of Letters from his son, Tommy ’07. Mr. Wolfe’s most memorable works include such bestsellers as The Bonfire of the Vanities, a novel depicting the money-crazed 1980s in New York City and The Right Stuff, a nonfiction account of the extraordinary exploits of astronauts and rocket pilots, published in 1987. His most recent novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, is a controversial epic about campus life, published in 2004.

Other honored guests receiving awards included Christine Burchyett Brewer, a Grammy award-wining vocalist whose international career has included performances with The Metropolitan Opera, the Opera de Lyon, the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony; she received a degree of Doctor of Music.”

One Reply to “Trinity College: Commencement and The Pursuit of Cool”

  1. don’t worry, dave. you didn’t miss anything by not hearing tom wolfe. like you, i was anticipating the event since i love the electric acid kool aid test but he was pretty uninspiring and meandered a lot during his speech. me and will figured out he didn’t even have his speech written down on paper (which is cool, in theory, but not so cool when you realize you have no idea what you’re talking about).

    when ya heading back to the states??

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