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Inspirational Figures of Speech

May 08, 2000|BETTIJANE LEVINE

So what words of wisdom will graduates hear this year? Here are three examples of how speakers will tackle commencement addresses for the Class of 2000.

* Actor Blair Underwood, (star of TV's "City of Angels" and the film "Rules of Engagement") is a 1988 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he will return May 21 as commencement speaker.

"The school asked me to keep it brief, to the point and inspirational," Underwood says. They also offered him the services of a speech writer to help craft his address. "But I thought about it and decided nobody can convey for me the message I would like to give."

His 15-minute talk will revolve "around something very simple, an innate gift we all have: the power to dream. We start out with this gift as children, but as we grow up, we get weighed down by the responsibilities of life, and we forget. My speech is about rediscovering how to dream, and how to attain our dreams." Underwood says he will receive no fee for the speech. "I consider it an honor to be asked."

* Ray Bradbury, the science-fiction icon who never went to college, has a feistier speech up his sleeve. In his comments to Caltech graduates on June 9, the author of 30 books and 600 short stories that deal with space exploration and related technology says he will exhort graduates to "work with politicians to allow us to move into the future; to go back to the moon and then move out to colonize Mars. The dream of going to the moon has been discarded for too many years," he'll tell the Pasadena crowd. "We've got to free man from war, and space travel is a wonderful, peaceful substitute. The moon will be our base, our space station. We'll have a colony on Mars that will number maybe 500 to start with, and thousands to follow in the next 500 years." He will receive a fee, but no honorary doctorate because Caltech "does not bestow honorary degrees on anyone," spokeswoman Jill Perry says.

* Musician John Mellencamp, who was expected to address Indiana University graduates on Saturday, displayed the troubadour's spicy, homespun philosophy. "Life is about getting what you want, and there is no victory in settling for something you don't want. Now, you don't have to hurt anybody in the process, or step on anyone's toes, but it's good to be honest. . . . I've found that when you take time to think things through, and do things right in the beginning--whether it's your career, your relationships, or whatever--the end will come out right." Mellencamp received an honorary doctorate from the university.

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