a handshake and two hugs

My first ever public speaking class wrapped up yesterday with a paean to friendship, a ‘devil’s advocate’ argument about the many ways in life people gamble, and eight extraordinary ‘farewell’ speeches. I wish I could put them all in here, indeed, speeches over the last couple of weeks improved vastly in quality, especially since Teresa’s critique of my teaching and Elaine’s declaration of faith in all of her peers. I hope Matt’s exposition on friendship describes at least a few transcendent moments for members of our class. Not at the same level of consistency as with his best friends of course, but such peak moments are how one knows the public sphere has connected the individuals involved in the shared experience of living, of being alive.
Serendipitously, a good friend sent this mid-year commencement address to me this morning (thanks John!). It addresses many of the issues and concerns raised by soon-to-be-graduating seniors, and encourages you to grab and not let go of “YOUR ONE WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE.”
Student-generated awards for each other follow. Disclaimer: many refer to topics students spoke about, others refer to aspects of each other’s lives of which I have no knowledge!


Sri – the funniest, happiest, most easily heard (a.k.a. loudest), most out-going, passionate, and energetic class gymnast, flashdancer, and class clown with the best use of props and a good – the best! – cause Award.
Liz – the most courageous, real, personal, powerful, honest, barrier-breaking best-dressed leader and convincing speaker with the most balls and most random speech topic (Betty Friedan Female of the Year) who gave the most speeches Award.
Seth – the most environmentally conscious, outdoorsy, smiley, friendliest, confused, random, green, “save our land,” token public speaker jock, honorary Capt. Planet teammember, treehugging Mr. Chill “the Pitbull” lover of Christmas trees with the most sophisticated topics who read the most and always skipped part of his speech Award.
Burda – the most over-the-top, innovative, “out there”, angriest, opinionated, wild child with devil wings, best use of props (the biggest pole), and best memorizer, MVP, Festivus speaker and Drama King with unique speeches who was the most fun to listen to and watch, with the most humor: The Gambler keeping it real Award.
Chris – the biggest sports fan, quietest, soft-spoken, nonchalant, most reserved and polite, tallest basketball star and Real American Beefcake with the best sweatshirts, who used the most ambiguous superlative, was most likely to skip class, and gave the best speech during non-class time Award.
Ben – the best ever, most into his hometown, risk-taking, most shy and most surprising, Baseball Ben, Hometown Believer and Hometown Hero, who saves trees by being the only one to have no script for a speech with the best memorization and eye contact, looking up the most, with the best soft-shoe routine Award.
Jesse – the most likely to succeed, most easy-going and laidback, most improved with new topics, “Fight the Power” sweetheart and class flirt who missed class the most (a.k.a. most absent and M.I.A.) Award.
Matt – the hippest, most articulate, honest, argumentative, creative, well-spoken, high, serious and responsible, smartest Intellectual, Question Man, and Marveltastic Intern of the Year with the best work ethic and best speeches who was most helpful with feedback Award.
Mickaela – the happiest, nicest, statistic-happy, most informative and relatable person to see out on the weekends with the best smile and (the most naturally) curliest hair who is most likely to have an honest outburst, smiles the most during her speeches and is most likely to be a good parent who won’t ever hit her future kids Award.
Luke – the most edgey, brash, outspoken, craziest, offensive, profane, shocking, vulgar, out-there and over-the-top, outrageous (in a good way) Class Clown and Unequivocal King of the Spoken Word who is most likely to swear in class, only taking seven words to offend you Let’s Cut the Crap Award.
Brett – the quietest (during class), nicest, most musical, soft-spoken and well-spoken cell-phone hater (carphone salesmen of the year[?]) and most creative Late Bloomer with relatable speeches, the most humor, strongest opinion, and the best fight/rebuttal to Kanye West who took a while but knocked it out of the park who is terrifying when he holds a gun to your head (“I’ll get you the money!”) Award.
Crystal – the happiest, cheeriest, most influential, spunky, outgoing and amusing Giggler, Procrastinator and UMass Valley Girl who talks the most in class, is nearest to Teresa, most likely to have a dance party in class, earns the consecutive speech streak and is most likely to rally people to volunteer Award.
Bobby – the best sportsmanship, biggest sports fan, most digital Boston Boy and Sports Guy (a.k.a. Sports Fanatic) with the quietest and most sound-conscious speech, who is most athletic (always talked about sports) and sports knowledgeable, early riser and #1 Son who is most likely to build a new Red Sox stadium with his dad Award.
Sotheavy – the biggest risk-taker, unpredictable, most entertaining, honest, injured, interesting, straightforward, nicest, “most into the class” best breakdancer with the best eye contact and best effort, most disgusting “TMI” and “Butt of No Jokes” Award.
Mark – the most original, funniest, apathetic, awesome all around, silly, most sick for a speech, gave the most effort and best use of theatrics, is most likely to fall asleep in class, is most likely to take you on a ‘journey’, and “What if…he never said ‘What if‘?” comedic value with the ability to make us cry Award.
Ryan – the most calm, dramatic, relaxed, interesting, animated, always on time, improvisational, all-around good speaker with the nicest eyes, best eye contact and memorization, Orator of the Year “King of Reason” who gave the best performance and saves the “No Fear” clothing brand Award.
Erin – the most approachable, interesting and good topics, who doesn’t show what she’s thinking (a.k.a. confidential), “face-to-face” Best Neighbor and Jersey Girl with the bluest eyes who is most likely to turn 30 first, Quiet Hero Award.
Sean – the best with reasoning (“Mr. Logical”), best speaker and most well-spoken male with the clearest voice, laidback and always in the back, oh so gentle with the best summation who is most likely to never waste his time, Mr. Honest Sammy Hagar “Right Now” with nice shoes Award.
Elaine – the most prepared, conservative, respectful, critical, outspoken, up to arguing, and happiest “Get out of Jail Free” Miss Logical/Structure with the best topics and best smile, Teacher’s Pet and Best Sister Supporter/Sorority Girl with the best hair who was most offended by Luke Award.
Teresa – the most honest, most improved, best dressed silent warrior Steph-Killer and Giggler #2 who Dances with the Devil (a.k.a. Devil’s Advocate), has the biggest balls, got the best audience reaction, bashed the teacher the most, and is most likely to lead a revolt Award.
Katie – the most effective, eager, funniest, musical, outgoing and most improved (from most nervous to calm) Facebook Goddess (a.k.a. Facebook Queen) and public sphere lover with the most enthusiasm and best tone of voice who is always smiling, most likely to be stalked on Facebook and is the only public speaker to have her own fanclub Award.
Steph – the Devil’s deviation with the dramatic pause and different teaching style, most confident, unique, enthused, active and optimistic, “You Gotta Ask? Best Hair” (a.k.a. most likely to continue to sport the mullet) and most likely to retake the class (!) Award. 🙂
Thanks again everyone. You know I think you’re something! 🙂

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