Aaron Sorkin delivers commencement address at alma mater

The Social Network scriptwriter graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre in 1983 and on Sunday (13May12) – nearly three decades after scooping up his diploma – Sorkin returned to the collegetown to allay graduate fears and share proof the prestigious school has prepared them well for a successful future.

Stepping up to the podium, he said, “It’s been a long time since I sat where you sit… As a freshman drama student… I had a Play Analysis class that was part of my requirement…The problem was that the class was (at) 8:30 in the morning… and I dont know if you’ve noticed but from time to time the city of Syracuse experiences inclement weather. All this going to class, reading, and walking through snow with a windchill that’s apparently powered by jet engine was having a negative effect…

“At one point being quizzed on Death of Salesman, a play I had not read, I gave an answer that indicated that I wasn’t aware that at the end of the play the salesman dies. And I failed the class. I had to repeat it my sophomore year. It was depressing, frustrating and deeply-embarrassing and it (the class) was without a doubt the single most significant event that occurred in my evolution as a writer.”

And Sorkin, who penned such hits as TV series The West Wing and Brad Pitt’s Moneyball, is glad he paid attention the second time around, admitting the class paid off in the long run.

He added, “Eight years ago I was introduced to (Death of a Salesman playwright) Arthur Miller… and we spent a good part of the evening talking. A few weeks later when he came down with the flu he called me and asked if I could fill in for him as a guest lecturer at NYU (New York University). The subject was Death of a Salesman. You made a good decision coming to school here.”