Thursday, May 04, 2006

When Helen Thomas gave the graduation speech at my high school

Kim asked me what I remembered about Helen Thomas' speech.

Graduation was on the football field that year and it was really hot. I wasn't graduating, but some of my friends were. One friend came in rather dissheveled for some reason, so I took her in the bathroom and fixed her up, putting some makeup on her and smoothing her robe. As a result, my seats for the graduation weren't good.

I paid careful attention to her talk as I wanted to be a reporter myself when I grew up. Some things I remember:

-I first heard the phrase "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" from Thomas, who used it about journalism, not religion.

-She talked about how she had chosen a field where she would always be learning, but even those of us who picked different paths should always be learning ourselves.

- The internet means that we are all connected. So the peoples of the world should should stop bitching at each other.

-My generation is in charge now, do our best.

All in all, not a graduation speech that rocked anyone's world. James Carville was funnier the following year, as was Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales when Jason graduated. But I've heard quite a few graduation speeches and Thomas' was one of the better ones. Washington Post Columnist Judy Mann gave a terrible speech my year and Chairman of the NEA Dana Gioia didn't impress me at theCSO's college graduation.

After the speech, everybody else was running to congratulate the graduates, I let the moms and dads do that and ran up and talked to Thomas. I don't remember much of the conversation. She advised me to write all I could if I wanted to be a reporter. I do remember she had a delightful enthusiasm in the way she spoke. It was engaging and made me want to keep talking if only to bond with such a cool woman. I bet that quality has come in handy for her.


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