Tuesday, March 11, 2003

I can't remember if I've shared this one before, but Conan O'Brien's Commencement Speech to his alma mater, Harvard, is one hi-larious bit of public speaking. Classic Conan moments include:

Students of the Harvard Class of 2000, fifteen years ago I sat where you sit now and I thought exactly what you are now thinking: What's going to happen to me? Will I find my place in the world? Am I really graduating a virgin?

And so on. It's a scream.

On a more serious note, one of my favorite playwrights, Tony Kushner gave a somewhat stirring (though long-winded) commencement speech to Vassar last May. Towards the beginning, he reminisces about a commencement speech given by an unnamed Associate Supreme Court Justice, in which the Justice merely stood at the podium and read through bad reviews that his decisions have received. Kushner says:

But I was sympathetic. I found it honest and brave and instructive-by-example: even if you rise as high in life as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court you will be pursued by critics as the damned are pursued by fiends in hell, and you will find yourself grumbling embarrassingly about their reviews, grumbling in inappropriate places, dampening festive occasions. I assume the point the Justice was making, by example, was this: "See, graduating students! It never ends! You will be graded forever! And YOU WILL NEVER BE HAPPY!"

Which for no particular reason reminds me of this funny painting that was on exhibition at the National Gallery recently. Shows a kid literally coming out of the frame of the painting at you with a kind of wild look in his eye. It's called "Escaping Criticism." Clever.


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