Saturday, April 7, 2007


My classmates have given me a really great honor... I'll be one of two medical student speakers at our graduation.

Each year, there are two medical student speakers. In general, one is humorous and the other is painfully sincere. Because I had to write my speech in order to audition for my classmates, I can already tell you that I'll be taking the painfully sincere spot in the batting order.


(almost) dr. jess said...

Hi Joe! I have no doubt that you'll be great. We only have one class speaker, and inexplicably, my class voted for the "funny" one. The guy said the word "rectovaginal" and stuck two fingers out in his audition speech. If he says that in front of my parents during graduation, I'm going to crawl under my chair.

btw, my husband and I have been enjoying some of your NPR pieces. Very well done!

Joe Wright said...

Thanks for the kind words about the radio pieces; I really appreciate it and I'm glad you both are enjoying them.

Re: your speaker: Just remember, let him be embarrassed for himself 10 years from now; you don't have to be embarrassed for him.


Anonymous said...

I think you should re-write your speech to be hilarious and slightly rude. SKS

Joe Wright said...

Admittedly it's tempting. If it was just for the faculty and students, I would be even more tempted.

But families have often waited for a very long time, and made a lot of sacrifices, to see their kid or spouse or parent graduate from medical school. Even the humorous speeches almost always wind up with some comments about how incredibly honored we are and how special this day is, and so forth. That "I was joking around, but you know what, it is really a privilege to be a doctor" moment is basically an iron-clad requirement of the genre and I bet even the "rectovaginal" guy is going to find it hard to avoid. It's hard to escape the necessity for sentiment: in fact, usually the humorous speech lays it on even thicker at the end: it's what the humour is designed to allow, since without the jokes it would just be total unbearable treacle, rather than the other way around.

And to totally defy the necessities of the genre is to deny people their moment. It's an affront for which, worst of all, you are unlikely to win the laughter of the crowd. Very likely worst-case scenario: you make the changes and all the jokes bomb. Can you imagine? I wouldn't even tempt fate. It's a secular version of a religious occasion (it's like a mass bat/bar mitzvah for doctors) and there are some things you just don't say. I'll give another example: there was one woman auditioning who gave a very thoughtful and critical (and referenced) speech about medical education reform. The moment she started saying anything substantive and specific you recognized that she could not win. Obviously the world would be a better place if graduation ceremonies were opportunities to speak truth to power, but they're not.

The challenge of such occasions is to honor the weight of the occasion without sinking into sentimentality or banality. Obviously there is nothing wrong with making a few "rectovaginal" jokes from time to time in the right setting, but this isn't it.

And so you see that the larger problem with your suggestion is that more often than not, I am actually painfully sincere.


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