Ellen sends Tulane’s Katrina Class off in style

Leave it to Ellen DeGeneres to mention graduation, tequila, fleas, gays, beads, Hurricane Katrina and Lady Gaga in the same speech. The talk show host gave the keynote address at the Tulane University commencement ceremony last weekend. The result was one of the funniest addresses at a common cement (that’s make sense in a minute) I can remember.

Ellen addressed the 2,000 members of Tulane’s “Katrina Class,” students who were freshmen when the hurricane devastated New Orleans and closed the school. She also made a brief surprise appearance at the Tulane commencement ceremonies in 2006, the first graduation after the horrific storm hit. This time around she joined honorary degree recipient Harry Connick Jr. as the honored celebrity guests at the event. Ellen’s talk was equal parts funny, serious, touching and memorable.

Oh, where to start? From her first greeting to the robe-clad graduate (“Look at you. Usually when you’re wearing a robe at 10 in the morning, it means you’ve given up.”) to recounting of the bittersweet story behind her the famous “phone call to God” joke that landed her on The Tonight Show (“Why is she suddenly gone and there are fleas here?”) and jokes about being gay (“When you’re older, most of you will be gay.”) it was all priceless.

After her address, which she concluded with lyrics from Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance,” Ellen proceeded to do just that. Like on her syndicated show, Ellen danced through the audience bringing the graduates and their families to their feet. [For full video of the commencement address including Ellen’s dance afterward, visit the Tulane University website.]

Having been a fan of Ellen since before the “Yep, I’m Gay” heard around the world, it has been a real treat watching her evolution. From closet case to reluctant representative to smiling superstar, she seems to radiate these days with a confidence that comes from being sublimely comfortable in her own skin at last. That she is happily married to the hottiest hottie in all the land probably doesn’t hurt either.

So, what did you think of Ellen’s common cement speech? I sure hope despite the 20 shots of tequila, that the graduates will remember her sage advice. Especially the stuff about being lost in the woods. Oh, and dancing.