Taylor Swift’s list of things she doesn’t have keeps shrinking
as the Grammy-winning singer can now add “honorary doctor of fine arts” to her already impressive resumé after last weekend. While the consensus following the New York University ceremony appears to be that one: T-Swift delivered a killer speech that was equal parts hilarious, inspirational, and wholly deserving of a feature on every midwesterner post-Instagram grad’s story (apparently); and two: She keeps rocking a red lip like nobody’s business, an underlying counter-opinion refuses to be ignored.
You’ll find legions of online trolls furious about Swift’s newfound status if you look at the comments section of any post referencing her degree. Someone will argue that honorary degrees are “disrespectful,” “pathetic,” and “unearned” for every few Swiftie shoutouts. You might wonder how many of these scorned commenters have doctorates (honorary or otherwise). Although the evidence is inconclusive, they are furious that Taylor does.
Of course, as a die-hard Swiftie, my first instinct is to defend the artist, repeating “Long Live,” but upon further thinking, I can see where the angry commentators are coming from. I can only imagine the effort that goes into earning a doctorate as someone who obtained my B.S. in journalism and quickly jumped out of dodge. The studying hours. The missed opportunities. The crippling effects of college debt. And to see a celebrity stroll across the stage and receive a similar accolade without having to do any of the work? Understandably, it can make you feel a little down.
Swift is not to blame;
she simply accepted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that hundreds of institutions make every year. For what it’s worth, she made a point of joking about the silliness of it all in her speech “I in no way feel equipped to tell [you grads] what to do,” he clarified, “I’m 90% sure the main reason I’m here is that I have a song called ’22.'” You’ve worked hard, sacrificed, researched, and imagined your way to this point.” However, it raises the question of whether honorary degrees are truly essential to celebrate a person’s artistic success, or if celebrities might simply make a commencement address and be done with it.
In either case, it’s easy to assume that these super-rich celebrities couldn’t care less about an honorary degree, but that isn’t the case for everyone. Missy Elliott and Justin Timberlake both broke down in tears upon receiving their honors from Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 2019. While Celine Dion and Pharell Williams were less passionate when they received their awards two years later, they both sent well-wishes, which likely added some excitement to the otherwise lackluster mid-pandemic virtual commencements of 2021.
It’s crucial to realize that none of these celebrities are claiming they “really earned” their honorary doctorates. Why is there a movement to grab our pitchforks and torches every time they try to liven up a long-winded ceremony? No celebrity who has been given such an honor thinks to add “Ph.D.” to their Instagram bio, update their LinkedIn, or minimize what actual graduates have accomplished, so why is there a movement to grab our pitchforks and torches every time they try to help liven up a long We should appreciate them in some ways, or at the very least refrain from spewing more vitriol into the internet void. Because, at the end of the day, individuals will graduate, celebrities will speak, and the globe will continue to revolve.
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