This is a little off the beaten path here, but it’s really too good not to share. Rachel Maddow was the graduation speaker over the weekend at Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate’s alma mater, Smith College (and no, random jackass, that doesn’t make me her beard or vice versa, but it does make her smarter than you). I heard reports that the place where Maddow was delivering the speech was nearly filled to capacity by 10 a.m., four hours before the speech was set to be given. Needless to say, Rachel Maddow — who is also a local in Northampton — is about as good as it gets for graduation speakers at Smith College.
Anyway, the theme of Maddow’s speech is Personal Triumphs, more specifically, how they are overrated. Maddow spends the first eight or nine minutes setting up the theme. She talks about Carey Nation, the early 20th Century nutjob who was instrumental in getting prohibition passed. And she talked about what a disastrous era in America prohibition was. I didn’t know, for instance, that the government — in an effort to prevent people from resorting to industrial alcohol to get their fix — actually poisoned industrial alcohol, which led to some 10,000 deaths. It was a horrible 13 years for this country, but it was a personal triumph for Carey Nation, the famous bar-room smasher.
“Personal triumphs are overrated,” she says.
“When given the choice between fame and glory, take glory,” she says. “Life might very well be long. Keep your eyes on the horizon and live in a way that you will be proud of. You will sleep more, you will be a better partner, you will be a better mom, you will be a better friend, and you will not have to remember any complicated lies to brag about at the old-age home because you can brag about the truth of your well-lived life.”
Maybe Rachel Maddow is not your bag, so maybe this speech is not for you. But as graduation speeches go, it’s a brilliant one. And if you like Rachel Maddow, or great graduation speeches, then I encourage you to spend the 18:41 with this video.