Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Get smart and get smart fast

About 10 years ago, everyone went crazy for a commencement address supposedly given by Kurt Vonnegut about the importance of wearing sunscreen. It got emailed endless from friend to friend and even got turned into a hit song by Baz Luhrmann (yes, the “Moulin Rouge” guy). But, thing is, it wasn’t by Vonnegut at all. It was written by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich. My point to this long intro, and I do have one, is that famous people and memorable commencement speeches do not always go hand in hand.

Which brings me to Professor Maddow. Rachel was the commencement speaker at Smith College (I know, I know, so gay) last weekend. There she delivered a very good, surprisingly pointed speech cautioning against our national obsession with fame and personal triumph. It’s quite a thing to say to the Facebook/Twitter/YouTube generation where even something as mundane as lunch is turned into a public spectacle. But it’s the message she chose to give and once completely consistent with her ideology that government, and people, can do great things to help society when we realize that “personal triumphs are overrated.” Instead we should shoot for “durable achievement to be proud of for life.” You know, stuff you’ll want to tell your grandkids.

Of course Maddow being Maddow, she weaved in some wonderfully wonky history tidbits including the story of wacky Temperance activist Carrie Nation, the AMC Gremlin and KFC Double Down. All in all, it was very memorable and more than that an important message. I don’t think anyone will turn it into a hit song, but I think I could happily hum “Do not for the fame, but for the glory – learn the difference.” to myself in the shower.

p.s. I have it on good authority that Rachel gave out many hugs and smiles afterward. Talk about your glory.


Anonymous said...

Jeebus Kriste, how I wish we had someone so fucking cool as Maddow at my long, long ago commencement. We got Malcolm Forbes and the thrust of his speech was that society was going too far to accommodate the handicapped and the socially disadvantaged, that by doing so the weak were acting as a drag on society. No, seriously. And this was at a large public university (Ohio U., 'the Harvard on the Hocking' we were told, but that's another story). Anyway, love me some Maddow, for her smarts and her decency.

Nancy said...

Thanks for highlighting this - I watched the speech shortly after Smith put it up and then sent it on to my nieces and nephews and brother and sisters and father. It's a well-crafted piece with a wonderful message; I hope lots of people get to see or hear or read it. It made me search back in the archives to see who spoke at commencement when I graduated from Smith many, many years ago (I am not going to date myself by saying who, but she was a hero of mine, so it was cool). Smith's not as gay as you'd hope (is any place really?), but it is a great school and a great place turning out some wonderful women - women smart enough to ask Rachel Maddow to speak! . . . hope they had her favorite classic cocktail on hand.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear! "Smith's not as gay as you'd hope (is any place really?), but it is a great school and a great place turning out some wonderful women."

Thanks for highlighting the speech - saw her at Smith's convocation and appreciated wise words from a witty scholar. :)

J9 said...

Love RM, and this is a great speech

What I woke up hoping for today? Tina Fey Tank Top Tuesday - for her BIRTHDAY!!!

dc said...

Yeah, I watched it. Quirky, funny, serious and powerful.

The Rachel Maddow cocktail.

elliB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
elliB said...

I love Rachel Maddow. My commencement speaker was Carol Moseley Braun. I don't remember a thing she said.

Anonymous said...

oh my god I wanted to go to reunion SOOOO BAD when I found out RM was speaking. Argh. Stupid grad school. Anyway Smith may not be as gay as you hope but it's still the lady-gayest place I've ever spent time, though I've never been to a softball tournament or a womyn's festival.

Anonymous said...

I heard some gay ladies cheering when she said the word "labrys". (Or at least, some women's studies majors.) Might not be as gay as you'd like, but I bet it's a bit gay alright . . . :)

Anonymous said...

so the point is
don't follow people who's selling old fame.


okay, i'm pretty good at that.

the most extreme case that I saw on Tv
long time ago was a woman who's living in
very rich place in west cost.

what she said, one day God whisper her
that do the fifth plastic surgery.

especially on her eyes. like her young look
she said she has cat's eyes when she was young.

I'm fan of people who excuse and blame god
about their own action.

and about the oil industry, I don't have car, and
like to walk, even don't like take a bus,
prefer subway since I was born.

but my question is that when people critical about the industry and bother them so they need to robby and spent money for, then

the normal people who are work hard but need
the oil or their service will pay all the stupid cost.

I'm very care about environment issues but
if oil company is such a evil and then
how you guys gonna fly when you guys need to?

buy chinese huge kite and tie your body on it?
don't forget ipod you'll be boring fly alone
and please don't drink any coffee you can't
go to bathroom anyway, and make sure
have a life insurance. even you'll landing a place
that you never mean to.

thanks for the post it is interesting.

Tracy said...

We were there. I swear this is true: There were people in the "wheelchair" section of the quad standing on their chairs.

Rachel Maddow may be a faith healer. It is the only explanation. It was pure awesomeness!

Anonymous said...


I forget to mention this,

I suddenly realize something today,
when I was eating egg and bacon bagel.

so, it was kind of good day. :)

what I realize, it's same thing
whatever I do, the point is that
do what I like.

and now I see, I got the sense.
what I'm talking about,
of course design & art.

tangeresa said...

Ms. Snarker-- I think there are actually many lines in Dr. Maddow's speech that would make for lovely song lyrics, and I may in fact take on that challenge of turning it into a tune... Thank you for the inspiration!

Oh, and thanks also to Rachel for the inspiring address, which I've now watched three times and still can't get through without sighing and welling up.

Counterpunch said...

As a member of the Smith class of 2010 who sat four rows from the front, she was awesome. And super nervous. And adorable. And having Ms. Snarker posting about my commencement just helped bring the awesomeness full circle. It's a double fangirl moment.

Turtlepants said...

Is there a bigger version of that image you posted? Maddow with the frame?

gardiner said...

i'm not part of the class of 2010 (i'm 2013), but i was at commencement to say goodbye to my senior friends and to hear rachel maddow, and let me tell you, it was so worth the $15 parking ticket i got. her speech was great, and she was really cool afterwards about people asking for pictures and fangirling all over her.

Anonymous said...

labrys mention ftw!

betsey said...

DS-I think you meant to say DOCTOR Maddow, right? :) not professor-and I also had a very awesome dream about her last night! needless to say, I did NOT want to get up this morning:)

Jeannie Bee said...

"I heard some gay ladies cheering when she said the word "labrys". (Or at least, some women's studies majors.)"

Both, since I was among the cheerers! It was so excellent to have her for speaker! :)