No, I didn’t actually suffer through Sen. Michael Bennet’s commencement speech at Colorado College – I tend to subscribe to a corollary of Noel Coward’s famous axiom “television is not to watch, but to appear on.” Similarly speeches are not to listen to, but to deliver.
But Bennet’s office released the text after he’d given his (extremely long!) speech, so I scanned it.
As you’d expect, there was an inspiring quotation from President Obama, and a long recital of the plagues visited upon our unfortunate nation by those Wascally Wepublicans (as Elmer Fudd might have said), and some sympathetic musings about the plight of new graduates who would soon be seeking employment in these recessionary times.
None of it was particularly interesting, or inspiring, until I came to this:
“On a lot of nights, after I’ve hitched our minivan to its post and we have put our three daughters to bed, like a lot of people, I take a walk through our neighborhood. And, I often come to a place where the sidewalk has an imprint on it. It says, “B.T. Sowell, contractor, 1964,” the year I was born. I’m afraid that concrete has worn its 44 years better than I. Now, I’ve never met Mr. Sowell, but I know something about him.
When I get to that spot, I think about Mr. Sowell, working on the day he laid that concrete. He could have rushed the job, thinned out the cement, cheated the folks who paid for the path, taking shortcuts that might not have become evident for years. But, instead, he put his name on it so that generations of children between then and now – children who rode their bikes over it, who skateboarded and skipped rope over it, children who walked to school or to church on it — would know that he hadn’t cheated, hadn’t thinned it out; hadn’t cut any corner. They would know, as their parents had known that he had put an honest day’s work in for an honest day’s pay. He laid his work down – he laid his cement down – in a way that would create an enduring legacy that literally would support the footsteps of generations of children, and, in my case, their very weary parents.”
I couldn’t believe it. As far as I knew, I was the only person in the world who was interested in, or even looked, at the sidewalk stamps of long-vanished contractors.
My opinion of Bennet went from neutral to slightly negative to overwhelmingly positive. Bennet, you the man!! You’ve got my vote!! And, I’m sure, that of every other sidewalk stamp connoisseur…but you’ve got several hundred thousand more to go. And most ‘em, alas, don’t care about sidewalk stamps.
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