Langley High School’s graduating Class of 2004 experienced one of the most unorthodox and enjoyable graduations in recent memory. Nearly everyone attending the celebration at Constitution Hall last week found himself laughing riotously at the address delivered by film director and funny man Tom Shadyac. His speech was a dramatic departure from the often conservative and political addresses heard at Langley graduations.
Shadyac, director of films such as “Ace Ventura Pet Detective,” “Liar, Liar” and “Bruce Almighty,” has the distinction of using the word “crap” more than has probably ever been used in a graduation speech. After mortifying assistant principal Elaine Laine by asking her to demonstrate the effects of gravity, Shadyac acknowledged, “They’ll never ask me back. It’s totally cool, though.”
Shadyac used the board game “Truth or Crap” to illustrate to graduates the decisions they would need to make for their lives in the future. It also gave him an opportunity to liberally use the word “crap,” to the dismay of several administrators and parents and to the extreme delight of the students.
“Here’s the deal with ‘Truth or Crap,’ that’s the game you have to play for the rest of your life. Now it’s up to you guys to decide what’s true,” said Shadyac.
HE USED HIS MOVIES to illustrate to the student body the choices they would be faced with in the future and how life can be comical. “When you go off to college and start to get serious, don’t forget to have fun, or life will beat you up otherwise,” said Shadyac.
He received a standing ovation from the students when he turned Zen to tell the assembly that they should not allow their choices in college to be dictated by parents or by what is expected of them. “There’s a force in life that is guiding you, if you’ll just listen to it,” Shadyac said.
The director also promised to put the Langley High School baseball cap that was given to him as a thank-you, in his next movie as a tribute to the class.
“I THOUGHT HE WAS WONDERFUL. I can’t remember laughing that much. I thought it was great. It was a speech the students will remember forever, and that’s really the point,” said parent Wayne Gamotis.
Administrators returned to the solemn ceremony after Shadyac sat down.
Langley had 19 valedictorians this year, who were honored on stage with medals. Although no one was singled out, principal William Clendaniel did slip in the fact that of the students on stage, Lauren Sharkey had the highest GPA.
Class president Lauren Elasik gave a speech to her peers that paid homage to the cicadas that have become synonymous with 2004. “Don’t be like a cicada and wait 17 years to come back,” Elasik said. She also acknowledged the turmoil that has marked the last four years of the students’ lives. “We’ve experienced terrorism, code red alerts, war and anthrax,” said Elasik.
Clendaniel told the students how much the faculty has appreciated them over the years and that this graduating class has distinguished itself for making independent decision. “You selected the schools you wanted to go to based on what you wanted, not because it’s where you should go,” said Clendaniel.
In excess of 95 percent of graduating students at Langley go on to a four-year education. Several members of this student body are going on to prestigious universities such as Duke, University of Virginia and Georgetown, among others.
“Clendaniel said, “Go, knowing that we have every confidence in your abilities. Go on to do the great things we know you will do. We’re counting on you.”
Shadyac’s opening words, however, seemed to echo in the building. He said, “I see your little rebellious spirits, and it’s very cool.”