Matt Fox Update: Oh, Lighten up Francis!
Here's all that's wrong with today's Ivy college kids in a nutshell: Today's Columbia Spectator features a staff editorial criticizing the choice of actor and former CU football player Matt Fox as the Class Day graduation speaker. The gist of the editorial is that Fox is just an actor, and not really important enough to speak to the distinguished graduates. Yuck!
Let me let the folks who wrote this piece of elitist junk in on a little secret: Matt Fox is a very successful Hollywood actor... and while that is far from making him a good or even wise person, it means he is 1) hugely talented and 2) has more perseverance than most people will ever even see in a lifetime. And with today's job market the way it is, hearing from a successful and resilient graduate might do a lot of you a lot of good. In other words, 90% of you will never be as successful or work as hard as Matt Fox is and does.
And something tells me that his "perseverance training" got a big boost while he was playing on that Columbia Lions football team during the infamous 44-game losing streak. I suppose the years of getting doors slammed in his face while auditioning for parts were easier after spending his late teens and early 20's getting ridiculed in the national spotlight as part of a perennial loser.
And something else tells me that if Fox hadn't been a football player, the writers wouldn't be so quick to sneer at him in public.
Listen, I've seen the alumni contact rolls for many of the recent Columbia College classes. The overwhelming majority of them work as lawyers or at brokerage firms. Do those jobs involve hard work? You bet. Are they risky? Not really. Are most of the people working at these jobs extremely unhappy despite their financial success? Hell yeah. Welcome to your future.
If I learned one thing after spending four years with a bunch of kids at Columbia who were obviously smarter and more motivated than I, it was humility. I put on my cap and gown STILL not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, and that made me feel pretty pathetic next to my friends who did know and were also ready to work very hard for it.
I don't idolize actors or celebrities. In fact, I often enjoy making jokes at their expense in my other life as a comedy writer. But that's just joking around. The many years I've spent trying to break into Hollywood as a writer have taught me that ANYONE, and I mean ANYONE, who makes it in that business has probably busted his ass and taken tons of lumps just to get a decent chance.
Matt Fox came to Columbia by way of Wyoming, fulfilling what the University has always hoped to do: open the eyes and minds of young men and women who otherwise would not get exposed to higher learning in a place like New York City. Somehow, I don't think Columbia wants to be the college where a bunch of smart ass kids seek and get confirmation that they really are better than everyone else.
And the kicker of all of this is that there was a similar elitist controversy about the man chosen to be the Class Day speaker when I graduated in 1992.
I was not on the student selection committee, but a good friend of mine was. Unfortunately for him, all the really "big names" turned Columbia down and he did his best to scramble and get pollster Lewis Harris. The attacks my friend had to endure from our fellow students over the next several weeks were horrific. He used to play some of the nasty phonemail messages he would get on his speaker phone for me. (One of my favorites came from one male student who informed us that his parents were coming to the ceremonies at, "considerable expense," and thus deserved a much higher quality speaker than a, "glorified elderly bean counter.")
Well, poor old Mr. Harris took the podium that warm day in May, 1992 and shocked the crowd by saying that his research showed that a long-shot candidate from Arkansas not only could win the presidential election in six months... but WOULD win it. That man was Bill Clinton of course. And when Clinton did win that November it became clear that Harris had retroactively given one of the most memorable speeches any of us would hear in our lifetimes. Too bad many of my classmates decided to deliberately ignore him.
Matt Fox is an articulate guy who's beaten the odds, (he's also a cancer survivor by the way). The Class of 2007 should be honored to listen to what he has to say.