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Tulane Honors Program

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Wynton Marsalis

While Mayor Nagin was saying some *ahem* curious things on the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Wynton Marsalis was truly inspiring in a speech to our students and community at Tulane. Follow the link above for the whole speech. A few prime quotes:

That is why, as I stand before you tonight, I say the best way to be, is to do. Don’t settle for style. Succeed in substance. President Cowen said “don’t come back if helping restore New Orleans is not in your DNA,” and 91 percent of you have returned. Most of you have returned at a time when many would have stayed away. And now that you are here, you have the opportunity to set a new tone, not only for New Orleans, but for our country. Remember, many a revolution started with the actions of a few. For example, only 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence of which Ben Franklin said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” A few hanging together can lead a nation to change.

One of my favorite:
And though I haven’t quite pinpointed it, somewhere between my daddy’s youth and mine, generational aspirations for a richer democracy changed to aspirations for a richer me - more wealth and more leisure time for a lower quality of work. Oh, and forget about our political process. Voting became too much of a bore - let alone keeping an eye on how our tax dollars were being squandered or how our interests were being poorly served by our elected officials.

And finally,
The rebuilding of New Orleans is an important point in the history of the United States. Should my generation expect yours to be the watchdogs of this effort? Should we expect you to monitor how our leaders handle this responsibility to restore our city?
Well, my generation might not – because we have not been very good watchdogs ourselves. But I do. I expect you to be different than the example we’ve set for you.

Don’t wish for someone else to do later what you can do now. When you perceive a problem, instead of speaking about it in bars or dorm rooms or in hushed corners, put together a group of friends and be loud in your dissent. When you notice inconsistencies between what is said by government officials and what is done, exercise your individual and collective power to take steps to remove them. Our form of democracy allows you to do that. Remember, the best way to be, is to do.

What are you going to do?


  • You left out my personal favorite quote from the speech: "And when we pass on the best of what we do, that is quality education."

    By Anonymous Alan, at 8:20 AM  

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