by Ben Tanzer


As I look out across the sea of eager young faces before me, a turgid chowder of Phi Beta Kappas, Delta Kappa Epsilons, and members of Skull and Bones, and yes, you know who you are, even if no one else does, wink, wink, I see the future of this great country, the greatest country in the world, and I can’t help but think of what I once said to my own kids so many years ago: you’re off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.

Of course, before you go I want to share some thoughts with you from someone who has been there. You are the best and brightest we have, you represent the hopes and dreams of free people everywhere, and I implore you not to take that responsibility lightly.

That doesn’t mean things won’t get confusing for you at times, because they will. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. Quail for example. Small, ground-dwelling, cute, I suppose, harmless even, but if I can be blunt, not so smart on the whole, and ultimately little more than a pretty distraction. Anyway, the point is to be sure when you step, you step with care and great tact and remember that life’s a great balancing act.

Now you may be wondering, how do I achieve balance, and what does it take to be successful out there?

It starts with having the capacity to care. You have to care about others, and not just your family and neighbors, but the less fortunate too. You also have to recognize that when it comes to the less fortunate, Harvard grads for example, you have to care enough to let them help themselves. People don’t choose to fail or struggle, nor do they want our handouts or pity, but we have to care enough to recognize this, embrace it and live a life of what some call compassionate conservatism, and what I call selfless selfishness.

As I look back now I believe I have cared, fully and deeply, and I have loved this country, even when this country has not loved me back, and yes, feel free to read my lips as I say this, because I’m talking to you Maine, Colorado, Florida, and all the others who broke my heart.

Now, it is true that I was born to privilege, yes, a silver spoon in my mouth if you will, and don’t think Barbara has forgiven you for that, Molly Ivins. I kid, she misses you, really she does.

And look, I am the first to admit that there is a certain kind of luck to being born like me. I will also readily admit that to the well-born comes opportunity. But it’s what we do with that opportunity that defines who we are and the impact we will have.

Still, even for the best and the brightest, there are moments when we are alone, or at least feel alone, deserted, and when you’re alone there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on. And when this happens what you need is love, and your pants certainly, but when it comes down to it, all you really need is love.

Personally, I found love very early in my life with my beautiful Barbara, and when I found it, I never let go. You know, thinking about her now, and please do allow an old man this one indulgence, I am reminded of those early years in our little apartment in Houston, and how even there in the middle of that godforsaken, pork-rind-reeking, hell-hole of a city, her hair still somehow smelled like sea air, crab rolls, and Docksiders.

But it wasn’t just that she reminded me of my mother … ba-dump-bump, that she was beautiful, or that she believed I could be something more than the son of Prescott Sheldon Bush. It was that she believed in my ability the make the right decisions, until Desert Storm I suppose, well, and that whole Jennifer Fitzgerald mess, but otherwise, she was right there, always, forthright and supportive

She loved me, and when you have love, anything is possible, even when you lose your way during the long night and are held captive by extremists, be they religious, political, or economic.

Can I get a ‘hell, no’ for V-O-O-D-O-O economics anybody? I knew I could.

All of this brings me to my final point I suppose. You are a select group, all of you, and with that will come acclaim, and not just acclaim, but fame, there’s a good chance that you’ll be famous, as famous as can be, with everyone watching you win on TV, except when they don’t because sometimes they won’t, and when they don’t, you must look to your family for strength.

Because ultimately, it is about family, family loyalty, the nurturing of one’s children, and your desire to not only see your children thrive, but outdo you and achieve all the marvelous things you wish for them.

And of course in this area by golly I have been especially lucky.

Sure, we have some questions about Neil, his decision-making anyway when it comes to banks, and yes, prostitutes, but really all that’s water under the bridge now, and besides, he was never one of our favorites. Unlike Jeb for example, with his terrific work as Governor, and those beautiful kids, the little brown ones, they’re wonderful, you would love them.

Then there is W., who we just couldn’t be more proud of.

I mean sure, you could question his need to draw a line between following the advice of his actual father, who just happened to be a pretty darn good President once himself, and the “Father,” but there is a lesson in that as well my friends, and I do consider us friends now, and that lesson is, to be successful, you must be your own person and you must carve your own path.

And with that, I will end where I began.

You’re off to great places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so, get on your way!

Thank you. And God bless us one and all.




Ben Tanzer is the author of the books Lucky Man, Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine, Repetition Patterns and 99 Problems. He also oversees day-to-day operations of This Zine Will Change Your Life. He is currently watching SportsCenter, but upon his deathbed, will receive total consciousness, which is nice. Read the next story, WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, here.

* thanks to Amber Sparks and Brian Carr for their editorial work on this project.