Stop Making Eloquence A Sin

**Originally posted in my previous blog, “Cooley Says.”

A lot has happened since my last post. I became an aunt, an unimaginable oil spill began threatening the Gulf coast, the Celtics lost their NBA Championship, and international authorities finally found a way to put Joran van der Sloot in a prison cell.

It’s been a busy few weeks for everyone, but yesterday I was reading the news and became very upset. People were talking about Obama’s address about the Gulf Coast crisis, and CNN reported on a “study” that found Obama’s speech was “too complicated” for most Americans because of its 9.8 grade level and pesky 20+ word sentences.

This bothered me.

I’m tired of the words “intelligent” and “eloquent” being partnered with the words “misdirected” and “poor choice.” I’m not speaking only of this speech; the oil spill speech was far from Obama’s best, but this kind of rhetoric has followed him since he first tossed his hat into the ring. It’s also followed other politicians, experts, and speakers who have the audacity to use words with more than six letters. Commentators and audiences sigh over these speeches like tenth graders who don’t want to crack open their copies of The Canterbury Tales. “It’s too hard,” they seem to whine. “Just sum it up so I can go play X-Box, dammit.”

This all got me wondering. What would our modern audiences, pundits, and commentators have said about “The Gettysburg Address”? Perhaps “It’s okay, but four-score and seven years ago? Call it 87, teach.” What about the famous “I Have a Dream” speech? “Ugh,” you can imagine our modern commentators saying. “Come on, Martin. Just say what you mean. Who knows where Stone Mountain is, anyways? I don’t have time to Google that mess.”

Are we losing our ability to appreciate good language and smart ideas? Do we need everything boiled down to 140 characters or bust? Again, I know the Gulf Coast speech wasn’t Obama’s finest (even I’ll admit that there were missteps there), but why do we keep clawing into the guy and other speakers for the sin of eloquence? Why do we let people criticize them for sounding “too smart” or “too educated”? When did having a college degree become a handicap? When I think about this, I can’t help but wonder what on earth we are telling a generation of American students who are falling behind in math and science while their class sizes expand exponentially with each local budget cut.

I was stopped at a red light last night and got to thinking about what would happen if William Shakespeare suddenly found himself in 2010. I wrote a little short story, as I like short fiction when I’m bored (or licking my wounds from a blistering Celtics loss), so enjoy.

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I Gotta Read More

Last year, in the quiet hours of New Year’s Eve, I made some resolutions.

  1. I will lose 10 pounds in 2010.
  2. I will read 50 books in 2010.
  3. I will get a good LSAT score in 2010.

April is now halfway behind us. I’m 1/10 of the way into goal number one (some would classify that as an “epic fail,” but I call it “skillfully treading water”), and I think I’m on my way to achieving goal number three. It’s goal number two that’s being such a pest.

I was the readingest reading machine you’ve ever met when I was a kid. My school had Accelerated Reader, a program designed to get kids excited about books. Each book was assigned a point value, and you could earn points by taking a short test after you finished a book. I never played sports as a kid, but I could’ve been varsity at AR.

I also loved to read from an early age; my mom always read the Beverly Cleary books to me when I was little, and I can remember staying up “late” to finish a good book. (Sidenote: I miss the days when 9:30 was oh-so late.) I continued to read through high school, often carrying a book in my purse and almost always reading while I tended the register at the local grocery store.

College is what got me.

I’m not sure how a place so devoted to reading and learning can suck the soul out of a devoted reader, but it nearly did. After writing papers, taking tests, manning two jobs, and being active on campus, I either wanted to fall into bed and go to sleep or fall into bed and watch Grey’s Anatomy. (Sidenote: I miss the days when Grey’s Anatomy was good.) I fought back junior year, cleaving out time for some “pleasure reading,” and I’m the girl who always hated that phrase as it suggested that reading could be anything but pleasurable.

Here I am now. Fresh out of school and with a New Year’s Resolution tapping its toe oh-so impatiently for attention. I’m seven books into my 50, and that is behind schedule. Perhaps I’d have more time if I could stop studying for the LSAT, tear myself away from The X-Files, and stop my second job for pocket money.

I’m way behind, but I’ll get there.

In the spirit of cheering me on, does anyone have good book recommendations?  I love fiction, history, and love stories. (Sidenote: Love stories aren’t trashy romances.).

In the interest of disclosure, I present my five favorite books of all time…

  1. “Gone with the Wind,” Margaret Mitchell
  2. “Cold Mountain,” Charles Frazier
  3. “The Pillars of the Earth,” Ken Follett
  4. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” Jonathon Safran Foer
  5. “The Thorn Birds,” Colleen McCullough

Honorable Mentions: “The Life of Pi,” “The Green Mile,” “The Six Wives of Henry VIII,” “Outlander,” “Harry Potter,” and “The Book Thief”

Till next time,

CH