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2013 Commencement Speech: Bill Cosby, Comedian

Source: Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Marquette University Libraries

Thank you.

I will do the routine and then get on with.

I did the piece especially for your President. I was at the Penn Relays. I am always there. Always, according to the way my wife uses the word, “Always.”

Yes, I missed quite a few, but I am always there.

And I was sitting on the edge of the infield, lane 1, and they have these relay races 4 x 4, 4 x 8, and 4 x 2, 4 x 1, and it was about 10‐something in the morning of a Saturday, and the announcer said: And now for the boys' Catholic High School Championship of New Jersey County something or other, 4 x 1, lane 1, and I don't remember the schools. Bishop Dominican, Monsignor from Little Sisters of Flowers and decorations and Bishop so‐so, father and there's nine names. Gentlemen, take your mark.

And I am watching.

And I want you to know at the end of the race, I laughed harder but I mean, because of what happened.

Get set, and they go - and I watch. And turn and the – Bishop - Monsignor - off to the - the Sister, Father and the Bishop this is - there it goes. Saint - here's the anchor leg bring them in. And people are going crazy.

The Sisters and the Fathers and Brothers and the Monsignor. And the winner is, Holy Ghost.

And I fell out of my chair, laughing because I said, of course, how stupid can you be, to run against the Holy Ghost?

And think you're going to win?

And so the fellow who was collecting the batons, he saw me on the ground, and came over and said are you all right? I said yeah, because the winner was the Holy Ghost.

He said, Oh, yes. And did you notice, that the baton came across by itself?

So that was the piece that I wrote, but it really happened.

I think you will all be at confession sometime, too?

This idea of the Jesuits, this culture, the Jesuits; to teach how many schools, colleges, universities.

The Jesuits have taught so that the very, very bright, smart kids and even those who have it, but haven't developed it yet can develop.

But they haven't really learned what giving is about.

And here they are taught.

To give, to serve, and many of you will graduate still not knowing the feeling of what you were assigned to do and what you did. But I want you to understand, every last one of you, I don't care if you gave someone a pen, or you helped someone buy something, or you put a ladle into some soup and if you have no idea what this was about, there will be come a time in your life where you will fully understand it, because somewhere because of this University, you gave something to someone.

And for that, the receiver thanks you.

And as you go on in life, all of you, whether you're graduating as doctorates for the third time or whatever, we all understand that sooner or later you have to go to this world, this world run by human beings.

This world needing people to understand the humanitarianism.

But within that is integrity.

You, doctors, integrity, over and above what the pharmaceuticals ask of you.

You, the lawyers, who decide that you're going to be a public defender:

Integrity, not to find out how you can get a guilty person off, but how you can assign that guilty person to a place where that person will be helped, to smooth out the tangled wiring.

It's not - stand up - quit drinking - I asked you time.

It is important - thank God I am used to those things - it is important that you understand in your life before you have to learn it the hard way, as I did, and as I am still. And I will say to all of you graduating, this one joke - I didn't write it, but it's wonderful and it is apropos for all the people sitting around you.

I will try to stay true to religion.

Don't forget; this is a joke.

And so it is wherever the gate is that will allow you to come into Heaven.

Jokes are always written that way.

And there's a spirit in charge of letting the souls in, and the souls come up here and they come up. And you can't get up unless you're qualified.

So up comes a female soul.

And the spirit says, welcome. You're qualified. However, there have been some changes made. It's very crowded up here. So what God has done is God is asking that you - and you are a genius, we have seen to this, female spirit; you have written 50 books and they are all fantastic. You have to write a question.

And another soul came up - it was a male - came over and as I was explaining to the genius female soul, you too, male soul, are a genius and you did well. You qualify, but it's crowded - and two more came up together, and the spirit said, shut it off. I just want to talk to these people. These two come in please, husband and wife, you were.

What God wants you to do since it's crowded is take a piece of paper and a pencil, and you only need one piece of paper and a pencil.

Give it to her.

They are married 63 years.

Died together.

Write a question, and in that question, if God cannot answer it, you get in.

And so they started to write. The spirit collected the paper and went in.

He came back out and said, is this the answer?

And the female soul said, Oh, yes. It's the correct answer.

And God is asking me a question. I will need a lot of time.

Then what about you, to the male genius?

Yes, he gave me a question also. So you two follow me, and they went in.

And when he came back, the two souls were there and they said those people, they went in.

He said, Oh, yes. But were they geniuses of something? He said no. Just married 63 years. What is it, affirmative action for people married longer than 60 years? No, no, they actually asked God a question, and God had no idea, the answer.

So would you tell us, are you allowed to tell us what the question was?

He said, oh, yeah. They asked God when their children were going to get their act together.

In my mother's will, and my mother lived a long time, enjoying the money I made. She went around the world on the QE2 at least seven times with different people she chose to take with her.

She had nights and mornings and things and went with us when I was doing “I Spy” and went to Spain and Italy and Greece. She was all over and traveled first cabin. Her first son, her first born, William, did this for her. And he's in show business, and he loves his mother. And when my mother died, we sat there at the reading of the will. My mother, after I had won Emmy Awards and all kinds of things, in the will said, I leave to my son, William, $48,000 so that he will have something to fall back on.

I have prayed in that lawyer's office, not to God, not to Jesus, but to my mother. I said, Mom, it's going to be a long fall.

But for all of you graduating, understand that you are a dream come true for these people.

These people.

And now you're going to have to satisfy them.

Oh, yes. Some of you will come back home. Because you should.

Because you're not ready to work for somebody.

So thank God your parents will take you out of businesses that don't need people who don't know what they are doing.

I want to thank all of the parents who have their own business and will hire their child.

Those of you who made a mistake, understand that life is not over, whatever your discipline is, whatever you have chosen to become, even if it is just to satisfy your benefactors.

It is not over.

You may continue on into something you feel comfortable doing other than hanging around the house.

But it is important for you to understand that this, the Jesuits, they teach.

They teach respect.

They teach integrity.

So that no matter what little you have, you always realize there's something that you can give to someone.

It's very important, very important to look at someone that you're helping to see that they couldn't have done it for themselves, but - and then you will receive.

It is absolutely fantastic, because this is what life is about.

Your honesty, your integrity.

In closing - and I say that to just make you comfortable.

Kiss your mother.

Kiss her and hug her, and kiss your father. Make him hug you. Because while you were here at college, you made friends within 3‐4 weeks, and somehow it always came down to, please, Mom, this is my friend, they are looking - you never really got it.

I want you to get it today. Get all of it, that grandma, whoever it is, whoever is there, gave to you and they got dressed up for you. Some of you have people in walkers and wheelchairs who will die two days from now.

They just hung around to see this miracle.

Thank you, all. Take care.


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