Several weeks ago President Shirley Tilghman, Dean of the College Nancy Weiss Malkiel, and memoirist Cornel West gave their final regards to former USG president, Pyne Prize winner and reality television show contestant Connor Diemand-Yauman in a private, unpublicized ceremony. The Nassau Weekly has obtained a transcript of Prof. West’s remarks.
Connor Diemand-Yauman is my brother. I don’t mean the black kind of brother. For those of you who were briefly confused or put off, I understand. That’s usually the sense in which people of my race, that being black, tend to use the word “brother.” Connor ain’t black, though. A quick appraisal of the man would dispel any illusions you may have previously held about his race. Even blind folks can probably derive that conclusion from the cadences of his voice. Do the blind have strong opinions on race? I should hope not, since it has no bearing on their day-to-day life. Could be a book there, actually. Give me a minute to write that down; I’ve got a sabbatical coming up.
Does anybody have a pen?
Thanks. Find me after. I’ll get this back to you.
Hold on, still writing.
What I meant by my previous statement is that Connor and I have a relationship similar to that of folks related by blood on account of shared parentage. I now realize that, given the metaphorical sense in which I used the word, it was employed with the same purpose towards Connor as most black men or women would use towards another black gentleman, that is, to acknowledge shared humanity, heritage, and fundamental values and beliefs. Got nothing against that, of course. I did not wish to bring along with it the connotations of race that usually accompany it. Simply wished to distill it to its core figurative essence. Nothing racial about it.
I think we’re maybe getting bogged down in semantics.
The fact is that I hold a great deal of respect for Connor Diemand-Yauman. I also hold a great deal of respect for Dr. King and Karl Marx and James Brown and Jesus Christ. I’d like to be clear and frank for a minute: I do not hold nearly the same level of respect for Connor Diemand-Yauman as I do for the aforementioned gentlemen. That would be absurd. I’m talking about orders of magnitude difference. I can hold a lot of respect for a lot of individuals at any given time. That’s the kind of man I am. If you were to ask me to arrange a kind of scale of respect, and place Connor somewhere on that scale based on certain points of reference, I would place him slightly above Mos Def, a man for whom I have a great deal of respect. I would place him below Cee-Lo Green, though, who I believe has had a more consistent musical catalogue, especially in his work in Gnarls Barkley.
I would like to share with you a few things you might not know about Connor. How do I know these things? Connor and I are good friends. I know a lot of you in the audience would like to be good friends with me. I would like to be good friends with you, too. If you approach me the next time you see me out walking, I will gladly strike up a conversation with you. I consider myself to be a gregarious man. A casual meal is not at all out of the question. In fact, please feel free to approach me after this commencement. That reminds me. I still have your pen, brother. How about I give it back to you now. So I don’t forget.
It is possible I have forgotten what things I know about Connor that you might not that I wanted to share. If these come back to me, I’ll share them. Don’t get too steamed about it. They weren’t all that exciting. Just maybe interesting. Fun facts. Like on the bottoms of Snapple caps. Someone told me that there is one that says half of those facts are false. Sounds like a rumor to me. You never know.
Hold on, I think I remember one.
Wait. Please be quiet for a minute.
No, it’s gone.
The incomparable James Brown said once, “Hair and teeth. A man got those two things he’s got it all.” The last time I checked, Connor had teeth. In this day and age, poor teeth are the exception, not the rule. The state of dental technology is such that there’s next to no excuse for maintaining oral hygiene. I would be strictly surprised if I checked Connor’s mouth and found his teeth in disarray. Unless he got in a fight. I doubt that, though. Who’d want to fight Connor? He’d talk them to death first. With his teeth. As far as hair is concerned, I don’t know. He looks like he might be receding a little bit. I don’t know anything about baldness. I myself have been blessed with a significant head of hair. I’ve been told it looks like steel wool in a powerful magnetic field. Not a day goes by I don’t thank the lord for my extraordinary hair. Not much anybody can do for Connor at this point, though. I saw an ad once for a laser that put hair back on your head. Not sure I believe in that kind of thing.
A man’s gotta sort out his beliefs in this world. Connor knows that.
Does anyone want to get an ice cream cone? I do enjoy a good chocolate chip cookie dough.