On receiving an honorary doctorate at Harvard University
With nine extraordinary candidates whose diversity of achievement extend from an original vision of life expressed in film to the expression of law as a primary manifestation of integrity to a diverse and poignant literary style which highlights integrity through the expiration of moral and cultural decline to the engineering of human organs to insightful interpretations of our collective human mythology to what it actually means to mother.
I felt out of place. There were a lot of heavyweights up there. It was a beautiful day made more vibrant by the diversity of colors that always attends tradition, pageantry and the integration of generations, cultures and aspirations. The student speeches were excellent.
The first, enthusiastically delivered in Latin by Paul Mumma, likened the ages of man to the four-year college experience. It drew many laughs.
The second, delivered by Lois Beckett, spoke to the necessity of mastering change.
In jazz, we call the harmonies of songs "changes" and improvise to organize each passing moment of impending chaos. The final speech, delivered by Joseph Claghorn, a graduate in landscape architecture, was a lesson in metaphorical speechifying. Mr. Claghorn took us back fifty or so years when a decision was made to plant American Elm trees all over Harvard. The Elm was chosen because of its stability.
Low and behold, disease struck the Elms and they began to collectively expire. Enter the need for a diversity of trees in the ecosystem and an excellent explanation of the importance of resilience. That which was once stable (our economy) becomes unstable through disease (lack of integrity). Diversity creates resilience. One way fails, fifteen others succeed. It was very naturally delivered and had no "we musts.” I loved the robust call to order delivered by the Sheriff of Middlesex County, James DiPaola.
Mr. DiPaola also informed me that he took twenty deputies with him down to New Orleans to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, an act of citizenship for which I thanked him on behalf of the New Orleanians that were not present. Another highlight: Speaking with Pedro Almodόvar. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) is touring Spain this summer.
We will record my Vitoria Suite in Vitoria with the great flamenco jazz musician, Chano Domínguez. Perhaps Pedro and I will fellowship in one of the cities on that tour.
Now I'm on a train back to New York. Tonight I'll play a set of New Orleans music in the home of Jazz at Lincoln Center board member, Marshall Sonenshine. Victor Goines, Wycliffe Gordon, Ali Jackson, Carlos Henriquez and James Chirillo and I will be swinging.
It's the type of scene we love. Downhome, at home, festive, food, drink and a good time will be had by all.
I might even sing.