Stephen Colbert Talks About Cynicism

4 06 2006

For those of you who have hidden away for the last year, Stephen Colbert has an occasionally amusing, often very pointed, fake news show right after Jon Stewart on Comedy Central (from whence he sprang — sprung?? springed??).

But he also gives speeches (for which I assume he makes boatloads of money). Several weeks ago, he gave a speech at the White House Correspondents Association where he ribbed a shocked and horrified George Bush. Reviews were not kind.

Still, he went back it, and gave a graduation speech at Knox College which was reported in Editor and Publisher magazine. Much of it was the same type of humor as on his show. But he closed with a heartfelt discussion of cynicism which I reproduce below.

He closed his speech on an apparently semi-serious note, urging the grads to learn how to say “yes.” He noted that saying yes will sometimes get them in trouble or make them look like a fool. But he added: “Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blinder, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us.

“Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. Yes is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.

It makes me choke up to read this.



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