Rogue Ink

May 18, 2008

Well played, Julian Bond

Filed under: Entrepreneurship,Well Played — Tei @ 7:20 pm
Tags: , , ,

I told myself I was going to write on this blog every day. I made a pledge, in fact. A solemn vow. Which I have hereby broken, and none of you will be surprised to learn it was all my mother’s fault. Well. And my brother’s.

You see, he had the audacity to graduate today. Yes, I KNOW. Most inconsiderate of him. And mom’s a sucker for ceremonies, so my sister and I flew out, and my family and I have been sitting all morning on the National Mall (which, by the by, is the most idiotic name for the center of the DC monuments that I personally can conceive of. I realize all other malls took their cues from the National Mall, and I don’t care. Now that the word ‘mall’ generally connotes Forever 21 and those really nasty and yet somehow irresistible cinnamon rolls, I feel that perhaps the plaza in which you are flanked by the White House and the Washington Monument should have a better name. ‘Plaza’ would, in fact, do nicely.

Actually, considering the current occupant of the White House, perhaps ‘Mall’ is in fact appropriate.

Never mind. Forget what I just said.

Anyway. My brother had his convocation on the National Mall this morning, and I couldn’t see him at all because the gardeners who tend the stretch of grassy lawn in the middle of the National Mall did not see fit to equip it with stadium seating. Also, it was raining, so umbrellas sort of obscured the view. But if the ‘visual’ people were on strike that day, the ‘audio’ people were in fine fettle. Those microphones expanded above and beyond their prefix. I could hear everything in slightly more volume than I generally use on my iPod while listening to a particularly rousing rendition of ‘Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy‘. I could not, in fact, focus on the book I brought, foreseeing the problem of lawn = no stadium seating in advance. Which is how I came to be listening to the current President of the NAACP, Julian Bond.

Julian Bond gave one of the best speeches I personally have ever heard.

I say this as an avid follower of the current election (yes, I too have a crush on Obama). I used to be a theater geek, and theater geeks hear a lot of excellent speeches, because oratory is what we do. This guy was amazing. He was powerfully compelling, he dropped a couple of well-placed unexpected jokes, which are the best kind. Stealth funny is perfect for speeches.

He clearly had an agenda that had driven him for most of his life (when he was first elected to the Senate, they wouldn’t let him come serve, to which I say BOO to the 1965 Georgia legislators). He has an amazing history of civil rights advocacy, including being a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and work in the Senate for the state of Georgia. His grandfather was a slave, and his great-grandmother was a slaveowner’s mistress. This man stood up in front of an immense crowd of people and declared his grandfather’s bastard status, and for that I commend him, particularly since he had a point.

He called upon the generations of his family and the years of the civil rights movement to say that many people fought hard for the opportunities that were in front of the graduates, and (there was subtext here, he didn’t actually say this precise thing) if we waste the opportunities for which thousands upon thousands of people risked their lives, their welfare, and their safety, we are, as a nation, ungrateful punks.

I thought, ‘much as I hate being a punk, he has a serious point.’

He’s right. No ancestor of yours, whatever your heritage, ever worked or struggled or starved or fought for you to sit on your butt and play Halo 3 all day. I’m pretty sure they had other things in mind. The freedom to play Halo, most certainly. They fought for that. But I think they’d be a little irritated to find out that with all the time you spend on it, your ten-year-old nephew keeps killing you.

I’m a woman, and I own my business, and that would not have been possible a hundred years ago. Screwing around with that business is not cool. It will bring Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a whole slew of angry feminists down upon my head. Simone de Beauvoir will be pissed, and I don’t know about you, but I am not so cocky as to think I can contend with the vengeful ghost of Simone de Beauvoir. I have seen enough episodes of Scooby-Doo to know that they have used up all the benevolent ghosts.

So well played, Julian Bond.

You also told a really awesome anecdote whose segueway made sense at the time but which I cannot currently duplicate, but which I found so amusing that I will relate it now, and you all can take it however you will.

Two men are standing by a river (let’s say they’re fishing, just so they’re not standing there in this anecdote like dufuses). They see a baby floating in the river, a la Moses, in a basket. They wade into the current and rescue the baby, pulled him to shore. Just as they reach the bank, they see another baby come down the current, so they wade in again, catch the basket, and bring her to shore. The third baby comes swooshing along a moment later, and one of the men, instead of wading into the river to rescue it, starts running along the bank upstream as fast as he can, making little skoosh noises with his shoes because they’re pretty damp now.

The other man yells after him, “Where the hell are you going? We have to save that baby!”

“You can save that baby!” says his friend. “I’m going to go find out who’s throwing babies in the river and beat the hell out of him.”

Actually, what Bond said was ‘make him stop’ but I like to think it would be a semi-violent sort of stopping. Throwing babies in rivers ain’t cool. You can quote me on that.

Anyway. Don’t throw away your babies, your legacy, or the rind of your Parmesan cheese. I know an Italian lady in Firenze says you can throw that in your next pot of soup, and it will be tasty, and then you can invite me over for dinner. Because I am about to confront airline food for the second time in five days, and I could do with rescuing.

And Well Played to my brother, too.

My brother graduated George Washington University today with a double major in History and Geography. He’s going to make the best goddamn eccentric professor-scholar ever, and I’m very proud of him.

Subscribe. More race-gender relations tomorrow, because Crystal of Big Bright Bulb and I had a discussion.

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18 Comments »

  1. “No ancestor of yours, whatever your heritage, ever worked or struggled or starved or fought for you to sit on your butt and play Halo 3 all day”

    I don’t think that’s entirely true. I don’t want my kids to ever have to struggle. I want them to have an “easy” life, a rewarding life, a happy life. How they choose to pursue that happiness is up to them.

    I have friends who refused to help pay for their children’s college because they wanted them to “learn something about life”. We felt if we hadn’t taught our children what they needed to know by the time they were ready for college we’d be pretty lousy parents, so we ponied up. They worked hard too: we didn’t have all of it, but we wouldn’t begrudge one dime of it.

    I understand Julian’s point, but I think it could be taken to extremes.

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — May 18, 2008 @ 8:03 pm | Reply

  2. I think I’d like a bit of both, for and from my kids. I want them to have a good life, as easy as possible in many ways. Yet, I want them to understand that they are lucky to have what they have, and I also want them to give something back to the world as well. Maybe the way for them to do that is to do something that makes them genuinely happy.

    Comment by Brett Legree — May 18, 2008 @ 11:03 pm | Reply

  3. Tony, I’ve known many children who were selfish, lazy, mean little spoilt brats because their parents ‘wanted them to have an “easy” life’. I went to a private high school on scholarship, maybe I’m bitter that I didn’t get nice things like kids I went to school with did, whatever, but my point is sometimes mollycoddling kids by letting them have pretty, “easy” lives isn’t in anyway going to ensure their lives will be happy and rewarding.

    Please don’t take this as a criticism of your values about parenting, that’s not at all what I mean. I totally agree that parents being absolutely tight-arsed on the other extreme by not helping with college etc is wrong too, but I think there is a problem nowadays of more and more children being “blessed” in the other extreme — spoiled to the point of not knowing how to pay bills, not even contemplating the need to reduce consumption, or being incable to budget or work for something because they have never had to lift a finger in their lives. A lot of these kids end up falling hard and fast when they leave the nest, and I wonder if their parents did them more harm than good.

    Comment by sunili — May 19, 2008 @ 1:55 am | Reply

  4. Tony: Everything can be taken to extremes. I’m not asking that your children shovel coal in an unaired mine after walking uphill both ways. I’m just saying that actively wasting one’s life is dumb. If it’s your kid’s goal to be Halo champ of the world, and he sincerely believes that is the best possible use of his life, awesome. Go for it. It’s silly not to do things because you can see the extreme to which they can be taken. You’d never bloody DO anything. Incidentally: as I think the other people here are noting, the ‘easy’ life can be taken to extremes too.

    Anyway. I didn’t say they should struggle. I said they shouldn’t sit around and do nothing for all of their lives. I think we can all get on board with that. ‘Not doing nothing’ has a pretty broad spectrum of possibilities.

    Brett: Yeah. Like that.

    Sunili: I’ve seen that one too, but I don’t think Tony was advocating it, really. I think he just misinterpreted something I said.

    To all and sundry: I think we all hope that our children (and ourselves) should not be either horribly suffering slaves, nor indolent fops. What we are advocating here is a happy medium. A happy, happy medium.

    Comment by Tei — May 19, 2008 @ 7:36 am | Reply

  5. Happy medium. Got it 😀

    Comment by sunili — May 19, 2008 @ 8:58 am | Reply

  6. Tei, what I didn’t elaborate on enough was the “if we hadn’t taught our children what they needed to know by the time they were ready for college we’d be pretty lousy parents” part.

    Somewhere we have a photo of our youngest daughter making an entry in our family budget. We showed our kids where money came from and where it had to go and how hard it could be to have enough for what you needed, never mind what you wanted. We talked to them about values and morals, not in the “this is what you do” way, but as philosophical conversations.

    You need to prepare your children for the world. Yes, if you just spoil your kids, you’ll probably create shallow and pretty horrid adults. That’s why we call it “spoiling”, isn’t it? But you can love your children and give them everything you can without spoiling them if they understand what you are doing and why.

    We’ve always “been there” for our kids and they have always been very aware of that. In turn, they’ve always “been there” for us. They aren’t spoiled – they are hard working, successful people. We gave them the best we could, but they didn’t coast into adulthood.

    I’m not saying our way was the right way. It was the right way for *our* kids, but everyone is different. My parents raised three children in a similar way and while two of us turned out well, one didn’t (well, eventually she straightened out but she was sixty years old before that happened!). Some children need different handling, more discipline for this one, less for the other. And maybe some will turn out “bad” no matter what.

    I’m reminded of some other parents being horrified that our youngest daughter had HBO in her room during High School. They would never allow such a thing: grades would be ruined. But our daughter’s grades were fine; she studied when she needed to study because that’s who she is. That might indeed have been a terrible idea for their kids, but it wasn’t for ours.

    One last anecdote. Late high school, my daughter and some friends heading out for an afternoon movie. I offered her some money, she said she didn’t need it. I offered again because I knew she had been saving hard for college. She refused again. Her friends looked on with befuddlement – probably thinking “grab the money and run”. Why wouldn’t she take it? Because she knew that her mother and I were also working hard to pay for upcoming college. Why did she know that? Because we’d raised her to know that. Again, I don’t mean whining “I”m working so hard for you” but explaining that we were working hard to get something we wanted.

    There’s nothing wrong with giving your kids everything you can if they know why you are giving it.

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — May 19, 2008 @ 11:09 am | Reply

  7. Hi Tei, I don’t/won’t have kids, so there’s nada for me to add to this part of the pub gab.

    But since you’re a wordsmith, I thought I’d interrupt with the key to Mall vs mall in the DC area. We don’t sit ‘in the Mall’, we sit/go ‘on the mall’. Events aren’t ‘at the Mall’, they’re also ‘on the Mall’. When we wanna shop we go ‘to the mall’ and shop ‘at the mall’. Never even thought about it ’til I read your post. Thanks for learnin’ me on my local language!

    Comment by Crystal — May 19, 2008 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

  8. Crystal,

    That bugged me too. I figured if she had to take a plane to get there I should ignore it, but now that you’ve mentioned it… 😉

    Tei,

    I also think that when Julian and you talk about ancestros, you’re probably meaning to reach back just a bit farther than your own parents to imagine what they risked and struggled for (and against). Go back just a little ways and they’d certainly be shocked at how some folks squander their gifts and their opportunities. Lazy is rampant in the new millenium.

    I’ve heard him speak before. He is amazing. The hairs on your arms stand up when he really gets going. What a lovely speech that must have been. (Are you wishing you’d recorded it?)

    Congratulations to your brother. May he be a Rogue just like you.

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Comment by Kelly — May 19, 2008 @ 1:24 pm | Reply

  9. @Kelly Only two speeches appear on the GWU Commencement page, but I expect they’ll all arrive there soon. I’d pay good money for an MP3, tho:

    http://commencement.gwu.edu/HomePage

    @Tei Wasn’t dismissing the better part of your post…I was struggling with commenting from my phone and my thoughts were too big for that li’l Chiclet keyboard 😉

    Been thinking all weekend on your prejudice vs racism, and hashed it out with hubby. Read this post to him yesterday, and got misty-eyed when that fellow went running upstream after the third baby. But the sign of how effective y’all’s words were was when I was tired, grumpy, and burnt out…with little time to finish an abandoned school assignment that caught up with me after 2 weeks of ignoring it for family fun and work fun.

    I heard myself say “Oh f*ck this, it’s good enough. I’ll just turn in what I have and settle for a B.” And then the usual chorus—now with Bond chiming in!—said “We went through all that we went through so you’d be free to do your best. Do your *best*.”

    Of course, and as usual, I lifted my chin and finished as best I could…humbled by and grateful for the hard legacy that makes my way easy(er).

    Comment by Crystal — May 19, 2008 @ 2:14 pm | Reply

  10. Tony: Nobody’s saying you shouldn’t do everything for your kids that you can. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I said. Your kids, on the other hand, shouldn’t waste what you’ve given them. That’s all I’m saying. I hope your kids know that. I’m sure they do.

    Crystal: Ahhh. You see, I missed this entirely because I was SURROUNDED by parents and relatives from all over the U.S., and none of THEM knew how to refer to being ‘on the Mall’ either. All the naturalized D.C. residents were on the other side of the podium, being convocated. I shall correct this horrendous error immediately.

    As for the racism/prejudice thing, I’m probably going to take a day or two before I tackle it here. We’ve been entirely too serious over at the Pub these days. But it will return! And I shall expect your input.

    Kelly: He was indeed. And yeah, when I think ‘ancestors’ I’m actually thinking back beyond my own family, really. There are people who had a lot in common with me who I’m sure aren’t related to me until you get back to the B.C. period and some crazy genealogy. I’m sure, for example, I have no common relatives with the women suffragettes (because my folks were farming in Ohio at the time) but I still feel accountable to them and their work.

    Comment by Tei — May 19, 2008 @ 8:33 pm | Reply

  11. Tei, I left a kick ass comment last night and it didn’t go through because my computer had a freaky-fuck off-shut-down moment. It was all about my ancestors picking stumps out the ground in northern Wisconsin and not speaking English and holding the flag for my sisters who had given us the vote. Well, that’s it in a nutshell.

    Oh, and I did mention eating some good food on the plane so you don’t get sick again.

    Well played Julian Bond. Yeah. Work hard because someone paved the way for you.

    Comment by Ellen Wilson — May 19, 2008 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

  12. Ha! It went through. This is what hard work will get ya. And there should be one more dash after fuck. Sorry, I missed it. I do my damndest.

    Comment by Ellen Wilson — May 19, 2008 @ 9:01 pm | Reply

  13. Ellen: Damn it, how many times do I have to tell you to dash your fucks. One more battle in the war on English. You can do it, woman!

    Comment by Tei — May 19, 2008 @ 11:45 pm | Reply

  14. Fuck! I do my best! Hey, miss you on Twitter with your crazy Sybil tarot readings. I’m sad… Know you’re busy. Fuck-with-a-dash. Dash-a-fuck! That’s a good saying, eh?

    And congrats to your brother.

    Comment by Ellen Wilson — May 20, 2008 @ 1:47 am | Reply

  15. Tei and all, follow Crystal’s link above. The speech is there now, and though the Rogue version is great, the real thing is killer. It gave me chills to read it. (Though the baby story was something I had heard before.)

    See, Tei, that’s what college is for. All that effing money, so you can listen to an awesome speech at the end of four years. Feel better now?

    😉

    Comment by Kelly — May 20, 2008 @ 3:34 am | Reply

  16. Whoa. That was what I can, for the first time, properly describe as breathtaking. Thanks for the heads up Kelly.

    Now, to bring myself back to normal programming, I will ask a stupid question.

    Why is “commencement” at the end of the year? We (I’m in Australia) had ours at the start of the year. Is that just part of the whole wacky-toilet-flushing phenomenon?

    Comment by Sunili — May 20, 2008 @ 9:19 am | Reply

  17. I too want my children to have a good life. Not an easy life, but a good life. I want my son to grow up to be the best man he can be.

    If my son does grow up to play Halo 3 (or whatever video game is the shiznit when he’s grown up) all day…he damn well better beat his 10 year old nephew! Whatever he does, I want him to excel and do his best.

    As for your post…I love your description of the commencement speech. I have not been witness to a good commencement speech, but I feel inspired by this one and I wasn’t even there!

    Comment by Sandie — May 20, 2008 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  18. […] gender bias, women in the workplace Way back when, I promised you guys more gender/race relations. Remember? Remember how I said I’d talk about it the next day? Well, I lied to you. Kindly remember […]

    Pingback by Your Copywriter. Now In ‘Attractive.’ « Rogue Ink — June 17, 2008 @ 5:35 am | Reply


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