Jay Gatsby is the seminal American model, a mysterious, existential character who will stop at nothing to make his fairy tales transform into a reality. Encapsulated by the idea that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself, Gatsby is a remarkable representation of what life was like in the 1920s, the embodiment of the American Dream. But what’s more, he’s also the perfect example of a guy who, against all odds, found success, a self-made man in all respects, which makes him the ideal commencement speaker for Georgetown University.
As Georgetown has yet to announce who will headline the 2013 undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18, I decided it was high time a name was chosen, mainly a fictional, yet generationally relevant man who has inspired and guided us over the years.
His life’s mission to gain the approval of his long lost love and inability to come to terms with the cards he has been dealt has made him one of the most iconic protagonists to ever grace the pages of a novel. Clearly it’s he, this inexplicable caricature of a man entrapped in the past, who has lent for quite the commotion over the past few months with F. Scott Fitzgerald fans worldwide anticipating the stories revival on the big screen. But what if Gatsby weren’t just to come to life via film, but on the graduation stage as well. What if Gatsby were to be Georgetown’s commencement speaker? Well, his spiel to the audience of 20-something students before him would probably go something like this:
The introduction would be extravagant. Georgetown President John J. DeGioia would making sweeping remarks about how impressive of a man Gatsby is, noting his stint in the war and decorations he received. Then Gatsby would step to the stage, dressed quite fashionably from head-to-toe with a polished cane, perfectly folded pocket square, golden tie glimmering in the spotlight, and hair slicked back with only the finest of products.
His presence would speak for itself, a sight to see to say the least, a man whose name would far surpass the hype associated with celebrities. His wealth, prestige, and ultimately his mysterious ways would lend for a moment of awe and shock.
Gatsby would refrain from saying the usual thank yous, acknowledging the college, the students for their accomplishments, rather he would simply exclaim, “Old sport, have I got a story for you.”
I imagine he would talk to his audience of thousands as if it were just Nick Carraway before him, one man to another. Standing confidently, he would share his tales from the war, his adventures in Europe, and drop many a-line about his family’s wealth.
“I’ll tell you God’s truth,” Gatsby would say. “I am the son of some wealthy people in the Middle West – all dead now. […] My family all died and I came into a good deal of money.
After that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe – Paris, Venice, Rome – collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting big game, painting a little.
[…] Then came the war, old sport. It was a great relief, and I tried very hard to die, but I seemed to bear an enchanted life. […] I was promoted to be a major, and every Allied government gave me a decoration – even Montenegro, little Montenegro down on the Adriatic Sea!
[…] I didn’t want you to think I was just some nobody.”
He then would ask the soon-to-be graduates to lean forward a tad bit more and get ready to hear about a love story, a passion driven love, that applies to each and every one of them.
Though his heart may be invested in a married woman named Daisy Buchanan, he would allude to the great opportunities that come along with following your dream, be it a girl or high hopes for a job with Facebook.
His advice would be that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and make your dreams come true, derived almost directly from Carraway’s iconic line describing Gatsby as fatally idealistic. “No amount of fire could challenge the fairy tale he had stored up in his heart,” Carraway said of Gatsby. He was completely enthralled in his fantasy world.
Gatsby’s speech at Georgetown would undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest commencement addresses of all time.