This guy was supposed to inspire us. Yet somehow even as a respected anthropologist and physician, Farmer managed to produce the worst speech I may ever hear, riddled with tasteless jokes about PTSD and Ebola and characterized by a complete lack of self awareness and understanding of the human condition. Being well aware of his prolific career and myriad accolades, I was shocked by his speech. He is a hero to so many. But how can someone who is “best known for his humanitarian work providing suitable health care to rural and under-resourced areas in developing countries”, feel comfortable exhibiting himself as a douche in front of thousands of people?
May 13, 2015
Is This The Worst Commencement Speech Ever?
Duke graduates are outraged over the 2015 commencement speech by physician and anthropologist Dr. Paul Farmer, and one student took to his blog to share his concerns.
These are the words of Gary Sheng, a 2015 Duke graduate and new Google software engineer who wrote a scathing blog post of the university’s commencement speech, summing up the thoughts many Duke students have shared over social media since Sunday’s graduation ceremony.
The speaker was Dr. Paul Farmer, an impressive man for his contributions to health and social justice in countries like Haiti, Russia, Peru, Malawi and Rwanda, where he lives. He’s a physician, anthropologist, Harvard professor, global health journal editor and co-founder of the global nonprofit Partners In Health, who has won many major awards for his humanitarian work. He’s also a Duke graduate who went on to earn MD and PhD degrees from Harvard University.
Commencement speeches are typically the last impression of a university for students and their parents, and an early or first impression for the younger siblings or other family members of those students. And in today’s Internet world, they live forever on YouTube and are the subject of media attention. And it’s clear after this debacle that people not only care about the message shared by speakers, but they expect it to be inspiring and memorable and to sum up their college experience in the best way possible.
Read some of the Twitter comments below, as well as Sheng’s thoughts here, and let us know what you think. Is this the worst commencement speech ever? And who would you choose to keynote the annual speech at one of the nation’s top universities? Share in the comments below.