a little something extra

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

what to say?

The late Hon. Barbara Jordan almost always knew.

"Do not call for black power or green power. Call for brain power."

I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in "We, the people."

What the people want is very simple - they want an America as good as its promise."

I think a lot of us are groping for what to say right now. What to say to lead us into action on seemingly insurmountable environmental problems. What to say to give us hope in the face of a resisted, I will even say hated, present Administration. What to say that can let us believe that the idea of America means anything at all given the recent debacle and ongoing suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

My groping was a little more specific, today. My friend Erik is letting me kibitz tomorrow on the ceremony to open the semester and the school year at Cal Arts. He invited a bunch of playwrights to come read 90 seconds of their work, and I'm tagging in even though I'm not a playwright.

But there are those 90 seconds to grapple with. I can't read from my own work; though I write copiously in my daily job nobody really wants to hear a section of a research synthesis, program essay or script response.

So I thought I would seek something to read that would address the student artists as more than just students and more than just artists. I wanted to address them as citizens.

I wound up pulling an excerpt from Congresswoman Jordan's keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, where Walter Mondale was nominated for the Presidency. It's probably the first Democratic convention I was even vaguely aware of (I would have been about 7 years old at the time). Most of the students I face tomorrow will not remember either 1976 (before they were born) or Barbara Jordan. But I want them to know that the questions before us can be faced bravely, head-on, as Congresswoman Jordan clearly and eloquently outlines in her speech.

Now, I'm a pretty good public speaker. But I am no Barbara Jordan. I hope to do justice to, and perhaps with, her words tomorrow afternoon.


At 9:46 PM , Blogger Benjamin said...

I've seen you publicly speak, tho not in (shudder) a decade. You'll do splendidly.

Give 'em hell!

At 7:22 AM , Blogger Quev said...

I hope the speaking engagement went well. You chose good material and you have a great deal of grace and eloquence of your own, so I'm sure all was fine.

I'd never read that address by Rep. Jordan. It's very powerful. You may the poem Robert Pinsky, acting in his capacity as poet laureate, wrote for Jordan on the occasion of her death:

At 9:41 AM , Blogger meeegan said...

That is great, Quev. Thank you!


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