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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Speech-less

Some people love campaign speeches and just can't get enough. Not me. Not this year.

The debates and speeches of this presidential election were so toxic that the political landscape should be declared a Superfund site.

By the end of the week, I needed a breath of fresh air, speech-wise, and I had to dig deep to get it.

I reached all the way back to the commencement address my close friend, D, delivered in May of 2002 as we graduated from the George Mason University School of Law.

D and I met in the fall of 1998 when the Dean of Admissions introduced us at an orientation session.  I could see right away that D wasn't your average law student.  He looked a little older than most 1Ls, and a lot less vertical.

The former was explained by a prior career, the latter by a bicycle accident that confined him to a wheelchair.

The Dean had been searching for a notetaker to accommodate D's disability and hoped I might fit the bill. Law school was brand new to me, too, so I didn't know if I could even take my own notes competently.  I shoved my concerns aside and accepted the mission anyway.

D and I lurched along for a bit before we got our partnership in gear. The indecipherable, illegible shorthand I used to capture what I viewed as important concepts didn't work so well for D.  Once we realized we could put my pianist fingers to good use on the keyboard of a laptop, I began to take dictation.  At the end of every class, we essentially had a transcript.  As soon as we made this basic but critical adjustment, D and I started humming along.

Four years of night classes, countless hours of Socratic questioning, and one lifelong friendship later, we were on the cusp of graduating.  When the time came to suggest a class speaker, I nominated D.  Votes from our night school comrades catapulted him to a landslide win and on to the commencement stage.

Hundreds of us, along with our loved ones, watched and listened as D gave his remarks on graduation day.

We were impressed by his eloquent description of our Mason Law experience.  We were moved by his words of gratitude and love for his wife and children.  But what really got us was his closing.

As he prepared to conclude, D looked up and thrust his chin ever so slightly forward.  We waited in rapt silence for him to convey one last inspirational thought.

He basked in the dignity of the moment, smiled, and said, "And I'm proud to have graduated law school without ever picking up a book."  Even though D wasn't on his feet, within seconds, every other person in that auditorium was.







6 comments:

  1. I'm honored to have been there and experienced that moment in person! It was a howler, and D is truly an amazing person. I feel fortunate to know him.

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    1. I was honored that you were there! I was reminded tonight that as D left the podium, the keynote speaker --a renowned state politician-- tapped him on the shoulder and said, "I didn't, either."

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  2. What an awesome closing line!

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    1. He nailed it. Quite possibly my favorite live speech moment ever.

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  3. Heart swell!! This is great :) Way better than election acceptance speeches.

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    1. Thanks, katiclops! Ten years later every person I've talked to who went to that ceremony remembers that line, which is more than we can say for most political speeches. :)

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