I’m still pretty ecstatic about having interviewed Rachel Maddow just minutes before she delivered
this year’s Commencement speech at Smith College to the class of 2010 on May 16. As a Smith alum from 1997, I was thrilled to cover the event for the Women’s Media Center in New York, which was co-founded by fellow Smith alum Gloria Steinem ’56. Here’s the piece I wrote for them last week, which includes an exclusive quote from Maddow on feminism.
But there were some moments that I didn’t get to talk about in my WMC post, namely the covert lesbian joke that Maddow made to a knowing crowd, the lively live tweets from swooning alumnae; and photos of Maddow that will knock you out.
One of my favorite moments occurred when Maddow told the story of Carry Nation, a Prohibition-era zealot who used rocks and hatchets to destroy saloons. Nation proudly coined the word “hatchetations” for her barroom raids. Maddow didn’t miss a beat and certainly knew her audience when she coyly linked Nation’s hatchets to the labrys, the lesbian feminist symbol of power and strength, with a wink and a smile. Her queer-friendly and lesbian/queer-packed audience certainly laughed when she said:
Carry sold these tiny pewter hatchet pins and fundraising souvenirs. You can buy them on eBay. I have one. It looks like a labrys though. It’s a nice idea but different.
Smith alumnae from across the country came back in droves to hear Maddow speak. We had a virtual live tweeting party singing Maddow’s praises while she spoke. One of my favorite tweets came from Ashley Hatfield, an alumna from the class of 2008 who tweets @cosetthetable:
I’m still waiting for that drink to celebrate the class of 2010 and Maddow’s honorary degree from Smith. On the far left wearing the gray and red MIT regalia in the photo here is Associate Professor of Chemistry as a thank you for Maddow’s Commencement speech. Jamieson had the honor of hooding Maddow when the latter was conferred an honorary degree. The look on Maddow’s face is priceless. Did she look this happy when she graduated from Stanford? Betsy Jamieson, who gave Maddow a smashing pair of safety goggles
And finally, my favorite shot of the day was of my interview
of Maddow, which was secretly taken by Jim Gipe, Smith photographer extraordinaire.
There’s a Latin school spirit song, “Gaudeamus Igitur,” which Smith students and alumnae sing at every major event; it is one that unites us in our love for the College as well as our love for learning. A line that always resonates with alumnae and students is: “Vivat academia, vivant professores.” In honor of our latest Commencement speaker, I sing: “Vivat Rachel Maddow!”