Faulkner at Virginia: Prophet and Poet

Faulkner at Virginia: Prophet and Poet

In February 1957, when he arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia, to occupy his position as the University of Virginia’s first Writer-in-Residence, William Faulkner was 59 years old.  He had already published sixteen novels, five volumes of short stories and a dozen other books, but had only recently begun to be known as the country’s greatest living novelist.  In 1949 he became just the fourth American author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and earlier in the same year the American Academy of Arts and Sciences awarded him the Howells Medal for Fiction.  In the next five years he also received two National Book Awards (1951, 1955) and a Pulitzer Prize (1955).

The University of Virginia has just published an online audio archive of the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s two-year term as writer-in-residence at Virginia during the late 1950s.  In the recordings, Faulkner talks about his books, his career and events of the day.  The entire archive of Faulkner’s material can be accessed here.

A Word to Virginians

Faulkner was not afraid to challenge his audiences at the University of Virginia, as became clear when he decided to begin his second Spring semester in “Residence” by delivering “A Word to Virginians,” a nine-minute speech urging them to help solve rather than exacerbate the growing crisis over court-ordered integration in the Jim Crow South.  To 21st century listeners, his exhortations may sound more like temporizings, but at the time they were controversial, and to some in his immediate audience, as you can hear for yourself, unacceptable:

William Faulkner: A Word to Virginians

A Word to Young Writers

In his talk entitled A Word to Young Writers, Faulkner stated, “I have not read all the work of this present generation of writing. I have not had time yet.  So I must speak only of the ones I do know. I am thinking now of what I rate the best one, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, perhaps because this one expresses so completely what I have tried to say.  A youth, father to what will—must—someday be a man, more intelligent than some and more sensitive than most, who—he would not even have called it by instinct because he did not know he possessed it because God perhaps had put it there, loved man and wished to be a part of mankind, humanity, who tried to join the human race and failed.  To me, his tragedy was not that he was, as he perhaps thought, not tough enough or brave enough or deserving enough to be accepted into humanity.  His tragedy was that when he attempted to enter the human race, there was no human race there.  There was nothing for him to do save buzz, frantic and inviolate, inside the glass wall of his tumbler, until he either gave up or was himself, by himself, by his own frantic buzzing, destroyed.”

William Faulkner: A Word to Young Writers

The Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner: A Reading of The Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner at the University of Virginia

William Faulkner: Prophet and Poet

William Faulkner: Nobel Prize Speech (1950)

Slide Show: Faulkner at Virginia/Prophet and Poet

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Obama Concludes His Presidential Campaign : “Fire it Up! Ready to Go!”

Obama Concludes His Presidential Campaign : “Fire it Up! Ready to Go!”

Barack Obama saved his biggest Virginia rally for last, speaking to a jam-packed event in Manassas (VA) with 90,000 people in attendance. For his conclusion, he reached back to the beginnings of his presidential campaign to tell an inspirational story that lahad long ago fallen away from his speaking routine.

The story he told was about a long drive, a rainy day and how one person can make a difference. It was inspired by a small 60 year-old woman he met during a visit to tiny Greenwood, South Carolina, in 2007 and became a favorite during his Iowa caucus campaign. It ends with Obama leading a cheer of “Fire it up, Ready to Go!

Obama ended the event on Tuesday evening by exhorting the large crowd: “In 21 hours, if you are willing to endure rainfall, to take the person who was not going to vote to the polls, if you will stand with me in a fight with me, I know that your voice will matter. I have one question for you, Virginia. Are you fired up? Are you ready to go? Fired up? Ready to go? Fired up! Ready to go! Virginia, let’s go change the world!

Obama’s Final Rally: “Fire it Up! Ready to Go!”

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Barack ‘n’ Roll: Scores Huge Victories in the Potomac Primaries

Senator Obama Rolls to Victory in the Potomac Primaries

Barack Obama: Hope Changes Everything

Senator Barack Obama rolled to victory over Hillary Clinton by wide margins in the Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia elections on Tuesday. He won the District of Columbia by a margin of 75% to 24%, Maryland by 60% to 36% and Virginia by 64% to 35%. His resounding sweep of the Potomac Primaries extends his winning streak over Clinton to eight presidential nomination contests since last Saturday.

In Tuesday’s competition, Senator Obama showed impressive strength not only among the groups that have backed him in previous contests, but also among older voters, women, lower-income persons and white men.

In his passionate victory speech, an elated Obama rallied an ecstatic crowd of more than 16,000, declaring “we’re on our way,” but he warned that the job of bringing about fundamental change in Washington was far from done. “We know it takes more than one night, or even one election, to overcome decades of money and the influence, bitter partisanship and petty bickering that’s shut you out, let you down and told you to settle,” he said. Obama went on to pronounce that, “This is the new American majority. This is what change looks like when it comes from the bottom up.”

Obama’s Speech after His Potomac Primary Victories

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Senator Obama Sweeps the Potomac Primaries

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Bush Remains a Bubble Boy at Thanksgiving: Holiday Speech is by “Invitation-Only”

Little Bubble Boy Bush

Thanksgiving Talk to “Invitation-Only” Guests at Berkeley Plantation

In his first six years in office, the president has made little mention of Thanksgiving, beyond the ceremonial turkey pardons, but yesterday Bush traveled to Charles City, Virginia, for his first speech devoted specifically to the holiday. “[O]ur nation’s greatest strength is the decency and compassion of our people,” he said. “As we count our many blessings, I encourage all Americans to show their thanks by giving back.”

The New York Times reported that this was part of a White House initiative “to show a more contemplative side of Mr. Bush.” The Times added that yesterday’s message stood in contrast to the “go shopping” message in the aftermath of 9/11. Now, Bush asked Americans to consider the “many ways to spread hope this holiday: volunteer in a shelter, mentor a child, help an elderly neighbor, say thanks to one who wears the nation’s uniform.”

The problem, in this case, wasn’t with the president’s inoffensive message, but rather with his audience. You might think that a presidential speech on Thanksgiving would be open to all comers. But no, even when President Bush is talking about something as uncontroversial and inclusive as the essential goodness of our country, he wants his audience pre-screened for obsequiousness. In the event carefully calibrated to emphasize his compassionate side, as usual he wasn’t talking to all Americans. At least not in person. Admission to the event was tightly controlled by White House and Republican party officials.

Tyler Whitley and Mark Bowes wrote in the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “President Bush found something to be thankful for yesterday — a friendly, invitation-only Virginia audience. . . . ” “We love you!” one woman yelled as Bush prepared to deliver a 16-minute Thanksgiving message to a standing-room-only crowd of about 800 people standing at Berkeley under a tent facing the James River. Yes, it appears Bush can’t even wish Americans a happy Thanksgiving without the comfort of his ever-present Bubble.

Dan Froomkin points to some helpful historical analysis from University of Texas political science professor Jeffrey K. Tulis:

The tradition of presidents traveling the country — “seeing and being seen” — dates back to George Washington. Washington felt that public appearances were important for the president — and his appearances were indeed open to the public. . . . Washington was intent on establishing the precedent that the president was chosen to represent the whole country, not just his partisan supporters.

Certainly, in the past, presidential advance teams have on occasion taken steps to assure friendly audiences. It has not been uncommon for presidents to seek invitations to speak at friendly venues. But systematically screening audiences for an array of speaking tours . . . may be a new phenomenon, and one that the president should be asked to defend and justify in terms of his constitutional obligations. Well, we’re probably far too late to ask Bush to “defend and justify” this nonsense, but we can probably get started urging his would-be successors not to follow his ridiculous example.

On a related note, it’s probably worth mentioning that professors at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania have started a project called the Soapbox Alliance that seeks to “ban politicians from holding closed meetings restricted to supporters on all campuses in the nation.” It sounds like a very good idea that received a positive write-up in USA Today. Responding to the idea, Trent Duffy, Bush’s former deputy press secretary, said, “It’s a nice concept, but people tend to misbehave.” Well, here’s a radical idea in response to that: if audience members become disruptive from a presidential event, remove them (preferably without tazing them). If they heckle or refuse to allow the president to speak, escort the trouble-makers from the room.

The notion that some people might “misbehave,” and that this justifies seven years of shielding the president from being in the same room as Americans who disagree with him, is demonstrably ridiculous.

Bubble Boy Bush Gives Thanksgiving Speech

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