West Milford graduate gives commencement address to third graduating class of Stonecoast MFA

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    West Milford High School graduate Christopher Daly (class of 1986) gave one of three student addresses at the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Summer 2005 commencement. Taking a serious approach, Daly described the graduating students as "the preservers of truthful language and a meaningful literate culture." He cited numerous examples of misleading language filtering down from politics, advertising, and business into everyday speech, highlighting the Bush administration's "Healthy Forests Initiative" and "Clear Skies" program as two instances where words indicate the opposite of their true meaning. "Person of Interest. Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Enemy Combatant. Coalition of the Willing. Judicial Activist … None of these phrases say what they mean, and all of them are seeping into our language," Daly said. Noting words credited to Russian émigré poet Joseph Brodsky, Daly relayed: "You Americans are so naïve. You think oppression is going to come marching up the stairs in jackboots, carrying machine guns. It begins with the language." At this point the speech was interrupted by applause from the estimated 300 students, faculty, and guests in attendance. Shying away from specific politics, Daly called upon the graduates to take the high road. "Be a preserving force. Guard against false language. Don't let it be a tool of oppression: use it to liberate. Don't pervert and obscure meaning: write with clarity, unashamed. Don't let the truth of the world hide behind your words: Show what's there, whether it shines or festers." In 2003, Daly released a set of playing cards, "The Homeland Regime Change Starter Pack," highlighting the disturbingly tragic humor in the statements and misstatements of the Bush administration. The USM Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing is a two year Master of Fine Arts degree program.