Posts Tagged ‘school’

Neil Gaiman's commencement speech inspires art

Celebrity commencement speakers are often as known for their art as they are for being themselves — bigger-than-life personalities who have become famous for being famous. In life, I've heard graduating classes addressed by Meryl Streep and Whoopi Goldberg; online, I've enjoyed the speeches of Ellen DeGeneres and Steve Jobs. All were excellent, but few spoke specifically to my craft: writing. Perhaps writers are more anonymous than other celebrities, letting their works speak for themselves. After all, an actor's living requires felicity of appearance and presentation, making them natural choices for speakers, whereas writers are better known for being glib of pen than of tongue.

Neil GaimanBut when your school is committed to respecting all arts, visual or written, then the scope of your speaker candidates widens to encompass so many talented artists. Such was the case this past spring at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, when they recruited the insightful and accomplished Neil Gaiman, fiction author and master of multiple media. His speech to the graduating class was not a typical "rags to riches" story of how he became a successful writer and you can, too! Rather, Gaiman went beneath the surface, employing metaphor and allegory to reflect on the significance of his experiences and the lessons learned or ignored. His thoughts on being a writer are inspiring not only to me, but to artists of any form, making this 20-minute video worth the time of anyone whose creative flame could use some fanning.

My great thanks to fellow wordsmith and book club member Michele DeFilippo for sharing this video after we read American Gods.

Banned Books Week

Over on her blog, Tech_Space, Angela Gunn is doing a phenomenal job defending intellectual freedom as she celebrates Banned Book Week. It's an important occasion that needs to be observed, as the younger generations don't seem to be doing so. CNN reported a few years ago that students lack enough civic knowledge and common sense to recognize the First Amendment for the unassailable foundation of this country that it should be: "… when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes 'too far' in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories."

I once had a high school teacher who told us, "Tom Sawyer used to be one of the most dangerous books in the country." When a parent unthinkingly took this statement literally without recognizing what wasn't being spelled out — that the book used to be considered dangerous — he called for the teacher's resignation. If you don't know who to praise more — the teacher for including such a book in the curriculum, or the parent for his zero tolerance against censorship — I'll give you a hint: it's the one who showed more thought. That's what freedom from censorship is all about: freedom to think. And if you haven't learned that from a book, go watch Dead Poets Society or Mr. Holland's Opus. Then come back here and read Angela's rightful rants: