Last night I dreamed (and don't blame me for my dreams) that I was about to address a diverse audience. I wasn't nervous at all (hey, it was a dream), but I was anxious about how to address the group.
"Ladies and gentlemen" seemed wrong. What if there were people in the audience who were gay? "L" and "G" are are still "ladies and gentlemen," but what about "B," "T," and "Q" (bisexual, transgender, and questioning or queer)?
So in my dream I tried a more inclusive salutation: "Ladies, Gentlemen, and Honored Others."
I thought myself quite clever. But when I woke up I wondered why we make these distinctions at all. We don't address an audience of "Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and None-of-the-Aboves." Nor an audience of "Whites, Blacks, Browns, and Rainbows."
At the Oscars, they still have categories dividing actors and actresses, even though women who act have been identifying themselves as actors for quite these many years. I doubt they would want to compete for acting honors with men. So rather than nominate equal numbers of male and female actors, regardless of the quality of their work, and rather than force males and females to compete with one another, why not get rid of the competition element and just honor outstanding acting?
So, back to addressing the crowd. I thought of course that's why presidents and other politicians aim for inclusion by starting out, "My Fellow Americans" or what-not. But "fellow" still has maleness attached to it, so it still has some exclusionary properties. "Hey, Everybody" lacks appropriate dignity.
And then there's the problem we'll have in the Post-Singularity future, when we'll have cadres of technologically enhanced individuals clamoring to our speeches. I can't very well address my audience as "My Collegial Humans" without offending the honored cyborgs and transhumans at our meetings.
Last January I had the honor of attending a workshop of young people whose goal was to create a public awareness campaign for schools and other groups to support inclusion. The "inclusion" in the campaign project specifically was about including individuals with special needs, but really, inclusion is more inclusive than that.
The resulting I Am Norm project teaches us that, because we are all different, we are all "normal."
"Different" is not the same as "abnormal," so accepting people with differences normalizes differences. It doesn't make the differences go away, but it eliminates the values that are often subconsciously attached to those differences.
Back to my speech: I do think one of the best welcomes ever is the one the gang at Cheers gave their buddy when he arrived at the bar each night:
Right. I don't think I'll address my audiences that way (maybe in a dream). But how about a simple:
"Honored Guests: Welcome!"
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Back from seeing The King's Singers perform their Joy to the World concert at Strathmore. All I can say is, I'll never listen to schlocky radio "Christmas" music again.
The program was based on their latest Christmas CD, a highlight of which for me was Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The song was preceded by a reading of a letter from a World War I British soldier marveling over the brotherhood of the German and British combatants during a too-brief Christmas Eve cease-fire. When the Singers began singing "Silent Night" in German, I couldn't hold back the tears.
My only complaint was that the final portion of the program featured non-Christmas songs (e.g., a new arrangement of Straighten Up and Fly Right and a cover of Michael Buble's Home). It just seemed weird to me and spoiled the Christmas feeling.
But then they brought it all back with the encore. There's a special tradition in D.C. that the King's Singers always give us New Day as their encore. Well, maybe they do that everywhere, but it feels special in D.C. because of WETA DJ Bill Cerri, who played it every morning as his theme song. After he passed away, the King's Singers paid tribute to him by singing it at their next concert here. The audience was so moved by it, I think we've come to expect it; so far, they have always delivered.
So tonight, as the concert ended and the audience drew the Singers back to the stage for an encore, the lady sitting next to me muttered, "I wish they'd sing New Day." I almost told her "They will" (but as you know, I don't like to make predictions. Heh). Then they did.
What I didn't know was that they had written special new lyrics for the Christmas version of "New Day," emphasizing that the birth of Jesus was the New Day that gave mankind hope. It was perfect for the concert, perfect for the audience.
And I am completely awestruck that these six men can blend their voices so perfectly together, their tenure with the company ranging from 18 years to six months. It must be magic.
not rockin' around no Christmas trees, thank you very much