Archive for June, 2011
Sunday May 22nd I received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from my alma mater Middlebury College. I also performed the commencement address. During the year I probably do more than 100 presentations to large groups. I get nervous every time. I don’t think that will ever change. After 30 years of ski racing I still get nervous getting into the Nastar starting gate. Nervous is good. It means that I care, but this was a different kind of nervousness. I was miserable leading up to the commencement address, feeling a responsibility to impart meaningful words to these amazingly talented students at a school that is so close to my heart.
I knew months in advance that I would give the address, but I couldn’t put anything on paper until the week of graduation. On Thursday, before the Sunday ceremony, I flew to JFK, rented a car, and drove to my parents’ house in New Hampshire. During the five-hour drive I worked through my speech a few times out loud, from memory. I like to hear how it sounds. Doing it from memory forces me to make transitions that aren’t as obvious when I write it on paper. The next morning I wrote the changes into the script, and submitted it to the college for them to disseminate to various news outlets. Each night and morning I ran through my speech a few times before and after sleep.
I don’t use notes. I had no security blanket. For the first time in a long time I worried that I wouldn’t remember my speech—that I would totally go up. The fear was so bad that a week later I woke thinking that I had to give the speech again, and this time it really counted. Dreams can be a little twisted. I couldn’t remember the speech at all, but then I woke up rolled over and went back to sleep. Here is a link to the speech if you would like to watch it.