Why aren't I standing in for Helen Thomas?
By Alexandra Petri
Walt Whitman High School, I am deeply disappointed by your decision to pick Bob Schieffer as your graduation speaker. I tried so hard to let you know I was available!
Upon learning that Helen Thomas’s discomfiting remarks had disqualified her from speaking, I immediately offered my services. I figured that I was qualified, having never said anything controversial to or about anyone. Sometimes, when I am in long lines behind slow-moving people, I clear my throat emphatically, but that’s about it. Once I told someone to “go back to Germany and Poland,” but this remark made sense in context, since he had just said, “I think I dropped my camera in either Germany or Poland.” And I have a lot of experience in delivering speeches, sometimes carrying them down several flights of stairs in order to give them to the person who will actually be reading them.
However, I am not without credentials. Like Helen Thomas, I have a reputation for asking tough questions. “When are you going to get out of Afghanistan?” I demand of random passersby. “What are you hiding?” So far, no one has answered, but I think this is because they find my integrity intimidating. And unlike Helen Thomas, no one has created a Facebook page suggesting that Betty White replace me as a member of the White House press corps.
Compared to this, what does Bob Schieffer have, besides a decades-long career as a respected journalist for CBS?
And he’s made controversial remarks too! He wrote a country-western song about the life of a TV anchorman that includes the words: “You don’t have to know all that much/Like names and dates and facts and such/’Cause you got a face that reeks sincerity.” What if he tries to perform it for the Whitman class of 2010? Is this the kind of message we want recent graduates to hear?
Sure, Alan Goodwin, the principal of Walt Whitman High School, described Bob Schieffer as a “journalist of prominent stature in the community.” But sometimes too much stature is a bad thing. Once, during the Nixon administration, Bob Schieffer walked head-on into an overhead luggage rack and knocked himself unconscious. This has never happened to me. What I am trying to say is that I have gravitas.
To say that I am less controversial than Bob Schieffer is an understatement. Bob Schieffer once wrote: “Two dogs are talking, and one says to the other, ‘It’s not just that dogs must win, but cats must also lose.’ Well, that’s our modern Congress.” This man has been a respected newscaster for years, interviewing every president from Nixon to Bush! Has he believed, all this time, that Congress consists entirely of talking animals? How did this go unnoticed?
Walt Whitman High, it is not too late to change your mind. If you need to reach me, I will be sitting here quietly avoiding controversy, emerging only when I need to pick up more gravitas. Go Vikings!
| June 9, 2010; 12:01 PM ET
Categories: Petri | Tags: Alexandra Petri
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