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(cheering and applause) Mr. Chabon:
Okay, babe, so we gotta come
up with something for this White House deal. Ms. Waldman:
You know, you mean,
besides the slam poetry? Mr. Chabon:
Yeah, yeah. Ms. Waldman:
‘Cause you and me, and the
sl– that’s not gonna happen. Mr. Chabon:
Okay, so, power of words…
The power of words… All we ever do all
day is use words. Ms. Waldman:
Look — look, let’s not over-think this, it’s not that hard. What do we do all
day, every day? We use words; we
write, we talk — Mr. Chabon:
Some of us talk
more than others. Ms. Waldman:
Oh, very cute, very cute. It’s only, you know,
the First Family. No pressure! Mr. Chabon:
Okay, so — so, just
— wait a minute. “We use words.” “Use your words.” You know how we’re always
saying that to our kids, “use your words?” “Don’t have a tantrum;
use your words.” “Don’t — put down that
rock down; use your words.” Ms. Waldman:
Well, actually, what we say to our kids nowadays is, “Malia and Sasha use their words.” (laughter) “Don’t you wanna be
like Malia and Sasha?” “Malia and Sasha make
their beds every day.” (laughter) Mr. Chabon:
Why can’t our kids be
more like Malia and Sasha? (laughter) Ms. Waldman:
Okay, focus; focus
on the task at hand. Mr. Chabon:
Okay, well — so, I mean, the idea is, we try to teach our children that words, language
— persuasive language, language that appeals to the intellect, the heart, the senses — is the most powerful means
we possess to resolve our differences. That when we fail
to use language, when we resort to other means — tantrums, rocks, guns, armies — ultimately, that is more destructive and renders us more powerless, just as it does the people that we’re supposed to be talking to. Ms. Waldman:
So, you’re saying we go to the White House, in front of the President, with “The pen is mightier than the sword.” That’s your “A” material? Mr. Chabon:
I know, I know. But why is it so hard to teach? Why is it so hard to learn? Why do we have to teach our children and ourselves over and over again? Ms. Waldman:
Well, because. Because to use language, to really use it to its fullest potential, it requires
so many things, right? I mean, it takes training in
vocabulary, and syntax, and grammar. It takes exposure to
great works of literature, to style and rhetoric. But, most importantly, to harness the power of language, you have to be able to put
yourself in the position of the person you’re speaking to. Mr. Chabon:
Yeah, you have to
be able to imagine. Ms. Waldman:
Exactly. To imagine what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, how they’re responding to what you’re saying or the way you’re saying it. You know, and that’s
— that’s hard. Mr. Chabon:
That’s the hardest thing in
the world; to stand outside yourself; to see the world, to see things in the world, the way other people see them. Ms. Waldman:
So, I have a quote for you: “The easier it is for you to imagine walking in someone else’s shoes, the more difficult it then becomes to do that person harm.” Mr. Chabon:
Wow, that’s really profound. Who said that? Ms. Waldman:
You did. Mr. Chabon:
So basically, you’re
telling me, we got nothing. Ms. Waldman:
Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. We could — we
could do the slam. We could do a little cipher. (laughter) Mr. Chabon:
Still not happening. Mr. Chabon and Ms. Waldman:
Thank you. (applause)
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