COLLEGE PARK -- Comedian Bill Cosby had this prediction yesterday for the 1992 graduating class of the University of Maryland: "It won't be pretty."
"There are no jobs," he told the 3,800 graduating students. "These people deserve a rebate."
The students cheered loudly -- if perhaps a little nervously.
Mr. Cosby had titled his speech, "Fear," but the message was, "Welcome to the real world."
"There are no courses in valet parking, waitressing or grinding coffee at various coffee houses," he said, listing the likely job prospects for some new graduates.
"You people are not prepared. You are well-educated and you're cute, but that's not going to get it."
In no particular order, Mr. Cosby offered a list of things they should do -- treat others with dignity, get rid of voice mail, and, by all means, move out of the house.
"Your parents want you out of the house," he declared. "Your younger siblings want you out of the house."
With his mind working in Cosbyesque high-gear, he suggested that the students, still wearing their caps and gowns, should set out immediately to found a new nation. "No fast food. Eat what is available -- the dirt of the land. Be Shakers for six years at least."
"If you're going to go home," he added, "be humble."
Mr. Cosby's message for the crowd in Cole Field House was balanced by a somber plea for tolerance from Jeffrey Alan Jones of Bowie, an honors student chosen by campus officials to speak for the graduates.
Mr. Jones, who graduated in four years with two bachelors degrees and a perfect 4.0 grade-point average, reminded students of racist and anti-homosexual incidents on campus during the last year. "Now is the time to start fresh and realize that difference is not just to be tolerated, but to be embraced," he said.
Outside Cole Field House, parents and students hugged and took pictures. Rose sellers and diploma framers were busy at makeshift stands.
Scott R. Williamson, a new graduate in criminal justice, wore his feelings on his mortarboard.
"Finally," was spelled out in tape, a reference to the nearly six years he spent here.
Mr. Williamson is getting married in Towson Saturday and is headed to Jamaica for a honeymoon.
"I'm going to relax and get everything in perspective," he said.
Michele Latimer, a Prince George's County management graduate, said she was heading to graduate school and had not started worrying about jobs.
Mr. Cosby, she said, "was telling us to be human beings, that we act like people. I got that much out of it."
The ceremony was briefly disrupted by a graduating student who heckled U.S. Labor Secretary Lynn Martin, who received an honorary doctorate.
Mr. Cosby, 54, later singled out the man for some advice.
"Since you already know what needs to be said, I would say to you, 'Go out and get it done,' " he said.
Mr. Cosby earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts in 1977, with a dissertation on using television as a teaching tool.
Last month, he completed an eight-season run of "The Cosby Show."