One need not be an anal grammarian or an advocate of non-idiomatic formality to have noted the rapid decline of speech in the USA. For example, the random inversion of the nominative and objective cases commonly appears now in published works and televised speeches. To confuse — by that error — what you are doing with what is being done to you suggests a cognitive dissonance whose consequences are not just academic or esoteric but pernicious, broad, and existential.
Therefore, one might hope that a Commencement oration at a superior university by its president would manifest care, consideration, and expressive excellence. While President Eisgruber ’83’s address is featured as the first two pages of PAW (September issue), I think it hardly merits such prominence as it did not, to me, meet even a mediocre standard.
The speech’s theme, persistence, while inherently abstract and undramatic, allowed for dynamic and articulate development. However, such never occurred. The president’s language is banal, clichéd, repetitive, and uninteresting. No concrete examples or linkages to the audience were even attempted. The transitions are weak. The ideas are undeveloped. The one joke — borrowed from a compendium — is tepid. One could praise its atypically short length, but, Shakespeare notwithstanding, brevity is not always the soul of wit.