Sunday, October 28, 2012

High School Graduation Speech: 10 Years Later

2012 not only marks the tenth year I’ve been in New York City, but also the tenth anniversary of my high school graduation.

The combined milestones have compelled me to rummage through old photographs, musings, letters, speeches, and keepsakes from the last decade. Much like my recent “A Look Back” series, it gave me a chance to see my evolution as a human being and appreciate both the good and bad moments from the last 10 years.

A student at Bristol Eastern High School had to audition if they wanted to speak at graduation. I stayed after school on the day of auditions and was so interested in everyone else’s speeches and stories that I ended up being the last student to go before the selection committee. I’ve always been at ease speaking in front of people, so I said my speech as effortlessly as if I was having a casual conversation with friends.

Toward the end of the week, my AP English class held a celebration of family that allowed our parents to come in and hear the essays we had written about them. It just so happened that it was the same day that the graduation speakers were announced. I remember walking by the door with the piece of paper tacked to it that had my name on it with both of my parents by my side. I was thrilled, but what made me more proud was that I got to share that moment with them.

I must have read my speech at least 50 times the day of my graduation. I don’t remember feeling nervous though. Once my classmates and I marched into the auditorium and took our seats, I felt a strange sense of calm come over me. Laura Lindstrom—who was actually a neighbor of mine who also ended up in New York City—could have given a beautiful speech before me, but I was too busy mentally preparing for mine, that I don’t remember a word of it.

When I got to the podium, I recalled what a friend of mine had said a couple days before. “Don’t be nervous, all graduation speeches are boring. No one pays attention to them but your family.” Needless to say, my goal was to make people pay attention.

I hate when speakers thank everyone in the room for being there. I much prefer they just get right down to business. We get it, you’re honored, but we’d rather you show us that by blowing our socks off rather than boring us from the start. In that spirit, all I said was “good evening,” and started talking.

As you will not at all be surprised to hear, my speech was constructed around baseball. One of the things that I’ll never forget is watching the men in the audience sit up in their seats during my opening lines. There were more than 2,000 people in the room that night, and I knew from my first sentence I had them. It was the most fun and exhilarating experience I had in front of a large audience up until I spoke at my younger brother’s wedding last year.

However, there was one thing I’ll never forgive myself for doing. I flubbed the last line. The words tripped coming out of my mouth and I mangled the closing. My family couldn’t tell in person, but it’s clear as day on the video. I knew it after it happened too, which took some of the glow off the standing ovation I got (#firstworldproblems).

Oh, you probably want to read the actual speech huh? Here it is along with some pictures from my high school days. I’ll have more retrospectives on my last 10 years in New York City in the coming weeks.

Take a Breath

Baseball fans remember two things about a great baseball game; the beginning and the end. If you ask a fan who the starting pitcher was, or who ended the game with a grand slam, you’ll probably get an answer. Few fans remember the third baseman that came in in the seventh inning for defense, or the relief pitcher that laboriously tries to clean up the starter’s mess.

Beginnings and endings have a special place in our culture. They carry great significance in our mind’s eye and that is why we are here tonight. The Class of 2002 is here to end something. We are here to begin again.

I went to my best friend Jocelyn's senior prom as a sophomore. She remains an important part of my life is expecting her first child with her husband! 
In Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character says, “There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens itself up for a few seconds to show you what’s possible.” The Class of 2002 has arrived at that moment.

Tonight marks the turning of the page, the end of an era. In this end, we find new beginnings. Some of us are off to the workplace, where we’ll strive hard to supply our families with a safe and happy life. Some of us are off to college, continuing to challenge ourselves and to discover the pleasures of education.

The AP English class that made me the writer I am. This was after taking the AP test. Thanks to  my friend Brian for saying something funny and making me look like an idiot.
Whatever the case might be, the Class of 2002 is playing in a very different ballgame. The events of September 11 have created a world that is uncertain of itself and scared of what tomorrow might bring. In the ashes of a tragedy, the world is discovering new beginnings. The Class of 2002 is apart of that beginning. We are the next answer to evil.

Neil Young teaches us, “you have to turn on evil when it’s coming after you. You have to go in after it and never be denied.” We are now all citizens of planet Earth and great change is on the horizon. At the end of our high school careers, my peers and I face a tremendous challenge. In the words of Bob Dylan, “You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone, for the time they are a-changing.”

Running around Muzzy Field at halftime of the annual Thanksgiving Day football game with a giant American flag.
We begin our quest to make the world a better place. We have the chore of reversing the decisions of negligent politicians who have been afraid of change. We are left the job of restoring hope to a world now afraid of its own shadow. Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have been able to see further than others, it was because I stood on the shoulders of giants.” The Class of 2002 will be the shoulders the world will stand on.

On the set of Funny Money. I played an English cab driver. Our director may or may not have walked out on our performance both nights.
Tonight, we leave high school behind. There will be no more study halls that last forever or endless excuses for forgotten homework. We no longer have to worry about getting caught going to McDonald’s for lunch. We are left with only the memories of first loves and horrible break-ups.  We leave behind a piece of ourselves tonight. We leave behind the rebellious, free-spirited teenager to embrace the responsibility of adulthood.

After being awarded the most improved player award my last year of organized baseball.  I didn't make the All-Star team, but got to run across Muzzy Field one last time as a baseball player.
Tonight the Class of 2002 walks off the playing field, eager for the next season; the next at-bat. I realize now there are no endings, there are only beginnings. Endings are simply a place where we can stop to catch our breath.

My advice to my classmates is: take a deep breath; we have a long game ahead of us. Thank you.

June 14, 2002

My brother Tom said I would regret wearing a stylish button instead of a bow tie for my junior prom. My only regret is not wearing my friend Paul's top hat. He also had white gloves and a cane. It was awesome.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Birth of the Cool: 3 Poems You Can Rest Your Moon Dreams On

There was a stretch during my high school years in which I churned out a ton of poetry.

It’s hard to believe, but yes, I did actually have a girlfriend or two while penning these ballads, limericks, villanelles, odes, and haikus.

And not all of it was prompted by teenage love and angst—it only feels that way re-reading my canon 10 years later. But what else was I going to write about at that time? I hadn’t done anything yet!

When I first started this blog, I published some baseball poetry that prompted my girlfriend at the time to tell me: “Please find something to write about so you can spare everyone your teenage poetry.”

Screw that! I’m going to ignore that advice, and eventually be embarrassed and shamed that I did.

Every Thursday, I’ll post a few poems and maybe some thoughts on how and why they came about. Throw on some Miles Davis, wear dark sunglasses in a poorly lit room, snap your fingers, and jam with me.

Jazz of the Week: Birth of the Cool

There’s no better soundtrack to a poetry reading than great jazz music. Each week, I’ll include my favorite jazz tunes for your listening pleasure (as well as make it part of the post’s headline). If you have any jazz favorites you want to send along, I’d be happy to share them.

This week is one of my favorites. Miles Davis’ “Moon Dreams” from his album “Birth of the Cool.” Obviously, I wasn’t birthing any kind of cool in high school, but this is one of the first jazz albums I ever listened to and it made me feel cool. This song in particular matched so many emotions I felt then—and now—so it felt natural to make it the soundtrack to this week’s selections.

The Tremble and the Wait

a tremble buries itself inside heathen trench,
devoid of the once potent stench of luck


the tremble lose the will to want,
the will to need and desire,
the will to feel the flower petal’s bloom


once the shiver of heavenly touch,
once the eagerness for rising sun,
the tremble is but an uneasy ache of madness


tired of the test of truth
tired of not seeing light
tired of the wait…

the tremble surges into awareness,
eeking its way down crowded quarters,
lusting to find the memory of a smiling face


nothing but the gloom…
nothing but eternity…
nothing but hushed spirits…


the tremble retreats into restless submission,
left to taste failures vapidness,
left to tingle no more,
left to wait…

Reuniting Midnight

I talk with you,
dead to my words,
complaining of simple hunger.

The table has not been set,
or laid out with bounty or bread,
and yet you make no effort to cook,
or clean the yellowing linens for your darling husband.

I dream of feasts,
you tease with treats.
You save your food for
the table of an estranged vagabond.

Twelve chimes I hear,
as my stomach growls,
pleading with you for just a
a nibble,
a remedy.

“No, no no, ‘tis late,” you say.
“No later than a fortnight ago,” I grumble,
thinking of the goodies
brought to midnight’s table.
“You have had your fill, be thankful for that,”
you say as you roll over and snore me away.

Alas, I choose not to
stay and wither away into my tight stomach.
I throw on my clothes
and brave out into
the frigid moonlight of
I shake my fist at his
well-fed smile
and scour the dark for
anything to appease my appetite.

Through my neighbor’s open window,
my watering lips come
to view an untouched meal
laid upon his table.

tantalizingly sweet smelling,
just what my hungry eyes
hav been dreaming of.

All the while you sleep and sleep
and give the pleasures of your
dreams something to nibble.

I think not twice and squeeze through the pane
and trip past the drunken hounds
and sink my being into the goodies
upon my neighbor’s tale.
“What a waste, a meal left in haste,”
I think.

My stomach breathes again as I
return to my pillow and blanket,
you unaware of my whereabouts.

“Would you like a snack?
I can whip something up in no time at all,”
you whistle, surely to midnight your lover.

“No, no, no, ‘tis late,” I say.
“I’ve had my fill.”

I Know I Say

The Devil’s in my corner and he’s wearing polka dots.
He’s wearing a toupee and he’s knocking down shots.
An angel’s on his lap and she’s working him slow.
I know I say I love you, but I’m outta here now.

Inspiration’s fading fast and the monkey spits on me.
Coffee’s burning down my throat and I gotta take a pee.
The buzzard’s are circling ‘round my head, smelling up the joint.
I know I say I want to live, but I think I’ve made my point.

I’m seeing changes rolling fast as I try to make you cook.
The stew’s gone cold, the bacon’s burnt, you’re giving me a look.
The walls are closing in and the paint’s peeling off.
I know I say we’re gonna try, but you’re just too soft.

I’m holding onto luck as the highway’s driving by.
I stop in for a shot of rum and a piece of Maggie’s pie.
The screams are louder than the rhythm of the jukebox.
I know I say that the ground is good, but I think I’ll keep my locks.

The devil met me down in sunny Tennessee.
He’s dropped the angel’s toupee and now’s a real big tease.
I wrote down what he had to say but I think I lost it all.
I know I say we are good friends, but I’m trying my best to stall.

He took me to the desert where the bullets began to fly.
I watched the cold silence of the young boy’s dyin’. 
The Devil took them all to Heaven’s gate to live some more.
I know I say blow ‘em all away, but get the hell out of war.  

The blindfold masks the voices of the critic and the poet. 
Nothing here is good, so don’t pretend to not know it. 
It’s tough to see with sand running ‘round in my head. 
I know I say all’s well, but that’s because I’m looking for my bed.

I’m only as important as the sleep you keep so patiently dear.
There’s no sense waking your eyes so I’ll just go down a lite beer.
The Devil’s brought me back to a home away from everywhere.
I know I say I am, but I’m nowhere here. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Look Back: The Life of Daniel F. Ford
Chapter 9: Thoughts on Serious Subjects

I combed through my personal archives to get a sense of the person I was in order to understand the person I am. I unearthed an autobiography I was assigned to write in the 8th grade. This is the final chapter. 

When I first started publishing this autobiography I wrote as a 14-year-old Connecticut boy, I never imagined this last chapter would end up going live weeks before a contentious Presidential election.

But in many ways, it’s fitting. Personal views—whether political or otherwise—evolve over time and it’s important to reexamine them every opportunity we get. Shifting your views throughout a lifetime isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of evolution and humanity. Not everything you’ve thought or experienced is all right or all wrong. We’re human, so we get to make up our mind as we go. Our core beliefs lead to spirited debate, challenging compromise, messy rebellion, angry accusations, compassionate understanding, and the fearful recognition none of us has got anything figured out about the world we live in.

I don’t know if it was harder to understand the world as that 14-year-old boy, or as the 28-year-old man I turned out to be. I don’t know if what I believe in now, I’ll believe when I’m my father’s age. I don’t know if anything I believe is important to anyone but myself.

And it’s okay not to know. We don’t need to know everything. We don’t need to have answers to everything. Answers are boring if you don’t have to fight and claw for them. I tweeted during last night’s Presidential debate that we were all born to be rebels. Rebellion is not only in every American’s DNA, it’s in humanity’s essence as well. We all need to get some of that fire back.

A good friend of mine told me recently I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be in my life, that I was an unfinished project of my own making. She couldn’t have been more right. But the journey matters more than the destination. I’m supposed to be constantly questioning, improving, and learning right now and I don’t plan on failing in that endeavor. I can live with a little “I don’t know.”

Enough of present-day Daniel Ford. Thanks for taking this look back with me, and I hope to see you further on up the road.

A guy can dream, right?
Thoughts on Serious Subjects

The world to me is just one big problem that no matter what we do, the problem just seems to get worse. In this chapter, I’m going to give you my outlook on the world and give you some of my opinions on what we can do to try and work our problems out.

The first thing I would do if I could change five things in the world would be to change the way the government is run. I do not believe that one man should be able to run the entire country by himself. Sure, the President has a Vice President and Congress, but that is not enough (editorial note: I had not yet read how big a clusterfuck the Articles of Confederation were at this point).

This one is sort of a fantasy, but I would stop all wars. I know wars may never cease, but I am very concerned. Most of our problems are caused by wars. Maybe we could call together world leaders and try to settle our problems peacefully.

I would also let other countries know that the United States does not babysit other countries. If we were concentrating on our own problems and not other countries’ problems, maybe ours would get solved faster (editorial note: important to point out this was written four years before 9/11).

The fourth thing I would change would be how the police and FBI are run. They are concentrating on petty criminals and not on the bigger issues like gangs. I think police should act upon the same time stuff and the FBI should act on big time stuff (editorial note: the use of stuff clearly shows I have no idea what I’m talking about. Much like most people who are part of opinion polls).

The final thing I would change would be world hunger. We have so many resources, but yet can’t find the heart to help those most in need.

(Editorial note: I’m omitting a paragraph on divorce here because it was so awfully written, I couldn’t save it).

If my house caught fire and I had time to get one thing from the flames, I would have to get two things (editorial note: hell yes, rebel against the rules 14-year-old Daniel Ford!). I would get my Winnie the Pooh blanket and my Roger Rabbit stuffed animal (editorial note: #facepalm). I would get those two things because I have had them since I was little and they have special meaning to me (editorial note: family and pets not so much apparently).

I think that the biggest problem facing the world today is world hunger. There are people dying of hunger because we are too selfish to try and help them. We are so concerned about ourselves that we don’t think of the people who really need food. We have so many resources and don’t give them away to the people who need them because of the fact that they have no money (editorial note: or oil, a strategic location, or sizeable immigrant population in the United States). The only way we are going to solve this problem is to stop thinking just of ourselves and start thinking of others.

Probably the worst problem I’ve ever faced happened very recently. I was in sixth grade and I was going out with this girl and my grades started to slip. My social studies grade went from an A or B to (editorial note: a grade that was not an A or B). What happened was I broke up with her (editorial note: teachers kept us apart) and did the work to boost up my grade (editorial note: when I got the notice my grades were, ahem, slipping, my father waited for me to come home from school and shouted at me for what felt like an eternity. It’s the only time he’s ever yelled at me in my life. I’ll always be glad he did).

I’m not very spiritual, but I do think this. That I believe in God and angels, and that there are people who watch over us. So far, I have not had any trouble with these beliefs.

So many things that puzzle me about the world that they could fill up a large notebook (editorial note: or a binder full of women!). Since I don’t have the time or effort, I will just give you one. I think that the government has captured UFOs and haven’t told anybody. If they haven’t, why does X Files seem so real? What puzzles me is why they don’t tell anybody about it and where these UFOs actually are (editorial note: always end on a completely batshit crazy note, I always say).

20 Tweets From the Presidential Debate on Foreign Policy

Well, that was really something fellas.

Several things were made clear to me during last night’s final Presidential debate that focused on foreign policy.

The first is that I don’t trust Mitt Romney with the command of the most powerful military in the world. The second is that he clearly understood that the American electorate has made foreign policy a second-class issue this election despite our continued loss of blood and treasure overseas. He played not to lose the debate, and in doing so probably gave himself a chance of winning on Nov. 6.

One of my favorite Internet memes from last night's debate.
I also learned the President will not be challenged on his use of deadly UVA attacks that wipe out terrorists and civilians alike anytime soon. Bob Schieffer or Romney could have at least pressed him on the policies that are involved in making the decision to use that force, but that would have required both men to be conscious. I know drones are popular with the public because it reduces our casualties, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be questioned and made more transparent. I haven’t made up my mind on this issue, so it would have been nice to hear some discussion about it. For those of you interested in more information on that topic, check out Esquire’s Lethal Presidency series.

Last night’s debate also kept bringing me back to a theme my younger brother—who serves in the U.S. Air Force—has been talking about for months now. For the first time in 80 years, we have two Presidential candidates—and two Vice-Presidential candidates—who never served in the military. While they were discussing broad foreign policy initiatives, I couldn’t escape the feeling that they didn’t have a complete understanding of what they would mean for our servicemen and women (even factoring in Obama’s experience as commander-in-chief). There wasn’t a whole lot of discussion on what budget cuts and potential crises were going to mean to military personnel and their families. That’s a failure on the part of both candidates and something we all should be ashamed of for not making it apart of our national discussion.

While you’re making up your mind on who to vote for, check out some of the best reactions to the debate on Twitter last night:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

20 Tweets From Last Night’s Presidential Debate

I get a little peeved when people, pundits, and politicians say that the country has never been so politically divided or rancorous than it is now.

However, until a member of Congress is caned on the floor of the House or Senatelike Charles Sumner was by Preston Brooks in 1856—then I maintain that we’ve experienced much more harrowing political times.

However, it certainly looked like President Obama and Mitt Romney were close to coming to blows in last night’s Presidential debate. It was refreshing to see two politicians who clearly hate each other sparring off in a debate rather than a boring recitation of sound bites (which of course they worked in, but still).

The real winner to me was Candy Crowley, the moderator from CNN. She redeemed journalists after Jim Lehrer’s comatose performance in the first debate. Thanks for making me proud of my degree Ms. Crowley!

I spent the majority of the debate on Twitter trying to keep up with the informed, witty, and inspired banter on my newsfeed. Here are 20 tweets I thought were worth sharing.