Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Alumnus offers ‘conservatized’ humor, words of wisdom

When one of the most memorable Whitman grads comes back to campus, embarrassing memories are bound to come up. Douglas Carlsen, director of the Whitman College Bookstore, introduced John Moe as someone who had “always been an entertaining actor.” In fact, Carlsen was so impressed with the alum’s speaking and performance skills that he recorded Moe’s commencement speech from the 1990 ceremony.

“I thought, ‘Oh crap. He’s going to play the recording,'” said Moe, modestly reacting to his introduction.

The alumnus was persuaded to speak at his alma mater with the help of free One-Act tickets for that night’s showing, a production that Moe was involved with during his tenure almost 20 years ago.

Moe started out doing theater work after graduation, before going into a radio career in his early 30s. He has been in public radio for seven years and continues “to find stories I find interesting. They’re the easiest to write and talk about.”

Today, Moe is best known for his work on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” “Weekend America” and as a humor writer for McSweeneys.com.

Sponsored by the Career Center and the Bookstore, his return came with a chat about his book “Conservatize Me: A Lifelong Lefty’s Attempt to Love God, Guns, Reagan and Toby Keith.” Moe’s presentation provided a humorous look into the life of a stereotypical Republican, spending a month in places around the U.S. that are typically more red than blue.

“I was a native liberal and not a liberal by choice, but you are a product of your environment. So I thought, ‘Let’s see what happened when I just ingest conservatism around the clock,'” said Moe.

While reading excerpts from the book, many laughed at his experiences of test-driving a Cadillac Escalade, spending the Fourth of July in a town that almost entirely voted for Bush in 2004, visiting the Reagan and Nixon museums and chewing tobacco for the first time at a Toby Keith concert in rural Indiana.

In a time where political fervor is almost everywhere you go on campus, Moe’s speech opened and eased some minds.

“His talk made just made me laugh about the little things with parties and how it doesn’t really matter sometimes,” said sophomore Alex Thomas.

In the process of packing up memories Moe came across pieces of his Whitman days and decided to share stories about it with the crowd. His box of “junk” included an “awful one-act script that I won’t share aloud” and a grammatically challenged news article he had written in an April 1990 issue of the Pioneer. Moe redeemed himself by reminding the audience, “I’m a professional writer, I promise.”
As his former professor and mentor, Professor Dana Burgess was acknowledged at the end of Moe’s book.

“He’s the same John Moe I knew and directed almost 20 years ago. He speaks intellectually without being stuck up,” said Burgess.

The humorous memories that Moe shared came with wise words and advice to current students:

1. “Go to the Career Center and utilize the resources.” He noted that he wasn’t just saying this because the event was sponsored by the Center.

2. “Go to a lecture about something you have absolutely no interest in. Actually, go to something that you have the least interest in learning about.

3. “Don’t worry so much. Things don’t matter as much as you think they do.”

4. “Go ahead and make mistakes. Apologize for them and make amends. Everyone does a lot of stupid stuff in college.”

5. “Take a class from Dana Burgess.”

6. Your major doesn’t matter. “You’re not going to be a doctor. Just forget about it.” Moe advised current students to take the classes they love.

7. “Everything will be on the final. I don’t mean on the test that you take at the end of the semester.

When you get out into the real world, what you learn from every break-up, every party, everything you do here will be on the final.”

“You can’t plan your future. Look at me, for example. I wanted to become an actor and this is where life took me,” said Moe.

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