I had the joy and privilege of attending a very special graduation ceremony yesterday. Our current City Council president here in Northampton, Bill Dwight, recently earned his GED, and what better way to celebrate than to hold an actual graduation? But this event wasn’t simply for pomp and circumstance.
Bill used the occasion to help promote and support The Literacy Project, an incredible organization that helps folks earn their GED and a chance at greater opportunities. In fact, The Literacy Project helped Bill on his quest to complete his GED. It’s what they do. With limited resources and a dedicated crew of staff and volunteers, they offer free classes to adults where they can not only obtain the skills required to earn a GED, but ones that that will allow them to become fully involved, participating members in their community.
In order to make this graduation/fundraiser a success, Bill dug deep and pulled out the big guns. And so, Maddow Cum Laude was born.
For two hours we were delighted with the fabulous MC stylings of Monte Belmonte, and the amazing music courtesy of both the Young at Heart Chorus (amazing how dusty it got in the theater when they sang. Not a dry eye…) and the fabulous Erin McKeown. And when they came together to duet on Forever Young? Forget it. My face turned all sorts of leaky. (Another version here that will cause all the tears. All.The.Tears.).
Bill – who you may recognize from the fabulous “Hey White Guys!” series – also managed to snag Rachel Maddow as his commencement speaker. Yes, that Rachel Maddow. Rachel got her start here in the valley doing local radio, and Bill was the one tapped to be her replacement when she went off to do Air America. And so, we all got a little bit wiser yesterday, as Rachel wove together a commencement speech that included George W. Bush’s painting prowess, a rather adept Jennifer Tilly impersonation, and thoughts on the eradication of quaaludes in the US. If you’ve got the time, I strongly urge you to check out Rachel’s speech over at the River – the radio channel that hosted Rachel’s (and Bill’s!) morning show here in the Valley. The speech, like the rest of the event, was pretty damn inspirational in its own quirky way.
And while I wasn’t lucky enough, my brother – who interviewed her about the event for his work – managed to get a selfie with Rachel (That she took. After ragging on his phone picture taking skills).