Commencement Speaker Delivers Speech from Outer Space

Students graduating from the University of Connecticut's School of Engineering may have been disappointed to hear that their commencement speaker couldn't make it--until they learned he'd be delivering his speech from an awe-inspiring location.

It’s graduation season, and that means colleges and universities across the country are rolling out the red carpet for the celebrities and other high-profile individuals slated to present graduation speeches for the Class of 2014. While it’s not all that surprising to see an Oscar-winning actress or a prominent politician at the lectern, students at the University of Connecticut were given an especially memorable experience this past weekend when NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio delivered his speech from the International Space Station.

Mastracchio, who graduated from UConn’s School of Engineering in 1982, pre-recorded his words from his position 260 miles above the Earth.

“I could not be there with you on this big day, but being in space, I was trying to figure out how to make this speech different than all the other commencement addresses that are given each year,” said Mastracchio. “And then I realized, I’m in a weightless environment, so maybe I should give the speech in a different orientation.”

He then proceeded to float upside-down and rotate counterclockwise while continuing to speak—no doubt a vivid visual demonstration of just what the students he was addressing can hope to achieve with their degrees.

According to UConn Today, Mastracchio’s speech was broadcast on the school’s Gampel Pavilion scoreboards to around 5,000 graduates and their families and friends. His wife was on hand to accept an honorary degree on his behalf during the ceremony.

Accepted into the astronaut corps in 1996 after supporting 17 NASA missions as a flight controller in Houston, Mastracchio has made four trips to outer space. He was living and working aboard the International Space Station since November and just landed in Kazakhstan this week.

During his speech, he quipped that he probably has “the best job on—and off—the planet” and noted that “you become an astronaut the same way you accomplish any goal: through hard work and perseverance.”

Watch his out-of-this world commencement speech below, and then share some of the great speeches you’ve heard this year in the comments!

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About Stephanie Farah

Stephanie Farah

Stephanie is a former writer and senior editor for Carnegie Darlet and CollegeXpress. Stephanie holds a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's in Journalism from the University of North Texas. At various times she has been: an uncertain undergrad, a financial aid recipient, a transfer applicant, and a grad student with an assistantship and a full ride. Stephanie is an avid writer, traveler, cook, and dog owner. 


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