Bill’s Graduation Lessons (Newsweek submission: 6/9/08)

By Christopher Wink | June 9, 2008 | Newsweek submission

Bill Cosby told me I shouldn’t worry. No one was going to remember anything I said anyway.

In May, I graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia and was honored to address my peers and their families as our student commencement speaker. For my portion, I urged Temple graduates of 2008, in addition to those of the past and those yet to come, to stand by our obligation to leveraging our intellectual capital in the communities that surround the university’s Main Campus in central North Philadelphia.

Temple’s gift is that it is surrounded by neighborhoods that aren’t as near to any other university as large and as influential. I hope my fellow graduates and I remember and forever appreciate that, I said.

Cosby – the seminal 20th-century entertainment icon turned controversial race commentator – addressed my fellow graduates after I did.

“I told Wink,” Cosby said to nearly 10,000 new-alumni and family members. “Wink, don’t give that speech. Nobody’s going to remember a thing you said, Wink.”

He told me something similar before we went on.

“Nobody will even be listening,” he assured me.

Of course, despite what I might want to think, the Cos knew what he was saying.

Each May universities parade big name celebrities, politicians and intellectuals through their graduations to get attention, to display prestige and, perhaps, to make a meaningful experience a memorable day. But we mostly forget who spoke at graduations of the past. These speeches have become routine and predictable. I am not foolish enough to think my seven minutes were anything anyone will remember for very long, if anyone was listening at all. Graduations are full of children and grandparents, lots of people who are there for one face of thousands, not the speeches, not the pomp, not the circumstance. The words of this 22-year-old have likely already been completely forgotten by most.

Cosby’s address though was something different for my graduating class.

Bill Cosby was raised in Philadelphia and went to Temple. He is among our best known alumni and a member of our Board of Trustees. What’s more, rather than trot our celebrities or politicians, Cosby was the lone speaker at Temple’s commencements throughout the 1990s through 2003.

But he hadn’t spoken at a university-wide event since August 2004, when he welcomed the Class of 2008 – my class – by promising to be at our graduation four years later if we were there. In the last weeks of my college career, The Temple News, the university’s student newspaper, wrote editorials calling on Cosby to be true to his word. But his publicist didn’t call back, and Temple’s administration had “no official stance.”

Some said the relationship started to fracture after January 2004 allegations that he sexually assaulted a former Temple employee. Some said Cosby’s book tour that featured him critiquing elements of black America didn’t help.

But he showed up, and then he walked into the Liacouras Center – with me at his side – and it sounded like a rock concert – not too bad for a 70-year-old (July 12, 1937). Young faces of every color and background – the hallmark of the self-labeled ‘diversity university’ – dressed in black gowns, draped over each other to stick out digital cameras and cell phones. Bill Cosby and I, preceded and followed by university dignitaries, split the graduates down the middle of our college’s basketball court, thousands of mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers and cousins and friends applauding from their feet.

Temple’s graduations are not known to be reserved affairs.

“They weren’t cheering for you,” he would later tell me.

Of those pictures that so many screaming Temple graduates accidentally took of me when Cosby strode too quickly, the comedian had a similarly cutting remark that still makes me laugh.

“They’ll crop you out by tomorrow,” he promised me.

After I spoke, University President Ann Weaver Hart introduced Dr. William H. Cosby. The crowd again rang out, like we were at one of his comedy shows, not our own graduation.

“Thank God nobody has yet asked you to follow your dream,” Cosby said. “Because you never really slept that well so that you could dream.”

And we laughed.

“You have no clear idea what is forward,” he said of our futures. He gestured up to the families crowded on the second level of our basketball arena. “Only the people sitting up here have any idea where you should go and what you should be.”

And we cheered.

Temple is a big-name, professional research institution like many others in this country. In many ways, the college experience has merged into a single story. Leave home. Drink beer. Study. Frisbee. Study. Throw your cap in the air to the tune of the same speech. One from the biggest name a university can bring in, or the most sentimental story that can be told or the advice from some 22-year-old who is too young to know much of anything.

No one from Temple’s Class of 2008 will remember my speech, but I suspect they will remember Bill Cosby. I know I will.

As submitted to Newsweek magazine’s ‘My Turn’ column in June 2008.

I was at Mike Schmidt's wine-tasting

IT WAS IN MARCH THAT I first reported for the Philadelphia Business Journal that Mike Schmidt, one of the most celebrated third basemen in baseball history and easily one of the most iconic Philadelphia sports heroes, was launching a charity wine: a Zinfandel.

Now, I may have thought it a little funny, if only because two worlds seemed to collide, and when I went to the product’s first wine tasting for media yesterday, it may have seemed a little sillier still when I took a freight elevator to the basement and wandered passed the Citizens Bank Park groundskeepers in pursuit of the tasting. But, to be fair, as we all know, Schmidt is putting his name on the line to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis research.

Continue reading I was at Mike Schmidt's wine-tasting

Our promise to Lacey: Lacey Gallagher remembered one year later

As filed – without edits – for last Friday’s edition of the Philadelphia Business Journal.

IT IS DISTURBING JUST HOW often you think you have heard the story.

How an 18-year-old finds a drive after the prom to be her last.

Last year Lacey Gallagher was a senior at Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls, at Lycoming Street and 10th near Hunting Park.

She died one year ago Monday. And it was hard. But, Lacey’s parents wanted to find good out of tragedy. People on the1600-block of East Eyre Street in Fishtown find good out of tragedy. They implored support for Pennsylvania House Bill No. 163, which would increase the phased licensing of young drivers in Pennsylvania. They raised awareness of the dangers of teenage drivers, particularly during late night drives in crowded cars on prom night.

The family wanted a more permanent way to keep Lacey’s memory alive, so they have launched a scholarship fund and are in the process of establishing a nonprofit in Lacey’s name.

“It is about going on our own and establishing our own name,” said Denise Gallagher, Lacey’s mother. “We want this to last.”

Continue reading Our promise to Lacey: Lacey Gallagher remembered one year later

The April 22 Pennsylvania primary in Philadelphia

Oh, today is the much hyped Pennsylvania primary.

If you’re registered in Philadelphia and need to know where you’re voting, using the Committee of Seventy’s Citizen Access Center. Oh, and if you’re an Independent or Republican and feeling bummed out ’cause everyone is talking Obama/Hillary, fear not, in Philadelphia, there are also two ballot questions that mean a whole lot to some people. Want a real explanation of what to do?

Continue reading The April 22 Pennsylvania primary in Philadelphia

The complications of a student journalist

For the next month, at least, I am a student journalist.

I have been a proud staffer at The Temple News serving the community of Temple University in Philadelphia for four years. While I have reported for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Business Journal and elsewhere, there are few places I’ve learned more than in Room 243, the newsroom of The Temple News, and otherwise in my functions as a student journalist.

There are so many complications to it all.

Particular to working at a big university in a big city, I am inevitably competing with professional journalists, without seeming reactionary or amateurish. Competing with the very people whom I hope will want to hire me. At a school like Temple a great deal of our coverage is high profile enough to merit attention from the faces that make Philadelphia the fourth largest media market in the country.

Continue reading The complications of a student journalist

You have been incorrectly honored

acceptingaward.jpgNo, I will not be inducted into the Chi Alpha Epsilon Honor Society next month.

Really, I wouldn’t even mention it if it wasn’t hilarious.

I received an email requesting I confirm that I would attend a ceremony for a select group of Temple University students to be brought into a group of honor. Had I applied for XAE? Had I heard of XAE? Well, no.

The vanity of the young.

Still, the end of the year, even in a university setting, comes with a flurry of awards, honors, acceptances and, for me, lots of rejection. So, I didn’t think twice about calling to confirm that I would come. The woman with whom I spoke seemed confused, couldn’t find my name, but assumed she didn’t have an updated list. She wrote my name down, my guest’s name, and wished me well. The next day I got an email again requesting I confirm my coming. Well, this only made me certain I was the man they wanted. Then I got another of the same request: confirm your coming! Wow, they really wanted me. So I emailed that woman, eager to humbly confirm my coming to this fine honor. She quickly responded to the contrary.

Please accept my deepest apologies for the invitations to the XAE induction ceremony that have been repeatedly sent to you. Your email address is only one letter off from the intended recipient. We have corrected the error and you will not be bothered with confusing emails like these again.”

Continue reading You have been incorrectly honored

Chris Wink: what's in a name?

In today's climate, your name is your brand. Own it - or else become Mark.
In today's climate, your name is your brand. So own it - or become Mark.

The Internet is changing what it means to have a name.

I have already posted that this very blog that so begins the great push to lay claim to Web real estate, the most valuable of which lies on your name.

Your marketability, your presence, particularly as employers, friends and intimates increasingly go to Google or other search engines to better understand or know about us, will only become more dependent on your space online.

Chris Wink is original enough name that I cherish it, but I am hardly alone. Take a google search of my name and you see others, particularly, as previously posted, the founder of the Blue Man Group. But it goes deeper. Beyond confusion, you can become guilty by name association. Today, a friend forwarded me something, news from abroad that is accessible now as only a local paper was as recent as 15 years ago.

A namesake of mine arrested for a few thousands of dollars worth of vandalism. It’s a small enough a crime to warrant an employer to confuse his actions with my own.

A 17-year old youth has been arrested after about £5,000 damage was estimated that could have been caused in another school break-in.Police named Christopher Wink as having been charged with burglary at Bayside School between Sunday and Monday. “Entry was forcibly gained,” said a Police spokesman.

It is only another reminder that I need to make apparent who I am, branding my own name as I would any other product.

What jokes cross the editorial line?

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No one needs to remind a self-aware student journalist about the dangers of satire. Every April brings with it new stories of high school and college publications biting it hard after trying their hand at April Fool’s Day issues.

Most usually, the beef comes about with expectations. Young journalists try their best to be as professional as possible and then, infrequently, perhaps even just once a year, they bring out the cutting remarks and find themselves accused of libel or the sort.

So, at The Temple News, we tend to avoid such events. Still, our news blog, Broad & Cecil, remains a forum for plenty of sarcasm and editorializing. It was launched in September, having endured more than half a year without any controversy to note.

So far.

Last week, The Temple News reported on Frank Baldino, a university Board of Trustees member, whose company, Cephalon Inc., of which he is founder and CEO, is being accused of anti-competitive business practices and sued for allegedly making a deal with another pharmaceutical company delaying the production of a generic brand of his firm’s sleep-related drug Provigil.

In today’s print edition, there will be a follow up. While the story was being passed around, some staffers got to embellishing the situation. The result was a brief 20 second clip, lampooning Baldino with a mock cut-out and cartoon voice impersonation.

Continue reading What jokes cross the editorial line?

Why I am everywhere online and you should be, too

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Understand, I take relish in few things as much as I do in being an old head, knowing little about technology, what is new and fresh.

The trouble is that I am modestly pursuing a career in media. I graduate from Temple University in less than three months, with no job, little direction, and few goals. My chances for success just got smaller.

So, it was in early December 2007, with my fears and worries just beginning to rumble, that I launched this Web site. It was, as I first described it, a modest foot print in what, I assumed, would someday require a great deal more structure. The world’s dependent on the Internet is not lessening. This is the best, most effective way to market oneself.

I wasn’t going to blog. I promised myself I wasn’t going to blog. But then, there wasn’t much chance I could keep steady readership to develop a community (hello!) but also to increase my searchability on Google, (currently tops for “christopher wink” and second for “chris wink“) -It doesn’t help that someone of quasi-fame shares my name, as Chris Wink is the founder of the Blue Man Group.

Continue reading Why I am everywhere online and you should be, too