Saturday, May 17, 2008


Tony Kushner speaks at SUNY Purchase

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the graduation ceremony at Purchase College, of the State University of New York. A highlight of the proceedings, on a rainy and unseasonably chilly afternoon, was Tony Kushner’s wonderful speech — Mr Kushner was given on honorary Doctor of Letters degree that day.

Mr Kushner spoke of the challenges facing graduates today, at a time when fear is all around us. Fear not generated from without, but from within. Referring to the “Clinton interruption” to the Reagan administration and its policies, he talked about how those currently in power are generating more terror than the terrorists. He said it perfectly, of course, eloquently as only a playwright can. His address was received with a full standing ovation, the only one of the day’s speeches to bring the whole audience to its feet.

I hope the text (or a video) will show up online at some point, and when it does I’ll put a pointer to it here. Meanwhile, go check out Mr Kushner’s 2002 commencement speech at Vassar College, which is online. That address opens thus:

The last time I attended a college commencement — it was a couple of years ago and I won’t say where — the commencement speaker was an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, I won’t say which one but it wasn’t one of the really scary Justices, not one of the ones who jimmied open a window in the White House and gave you-know-who a leg-up as he clambered his ungainly way into the Oval Office. This Justice was one of the other ones.

Thank you, Mr Kushner, for a most excellent five minutes, and I wish we’d had more time from you than that.

Update, 20 May: Purchase College has posted the text of the speech.

No comments: