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Mary Matalin

Pardon me, I’m losing my voice, which is a never a good thing in our house.  (Laughter)

Well, President Cowen, distinguished faculty, honored guests, thank you – thank you for letting us be here today, for inviting us to help celebrate the 2008 graduation.  We are so honored.  Thank you.

And being here does make this a double-special treat for us because it’s our first celebration as New Orleans residents. (Applause)  And for that, if I could take a moment to thank the Cowens.  It is completely their responsibility.  James had been asking me for years to move back to the city where we married; and for years, I’ve been ignoring him – mostly out of habit.  (Laughter)  But in this case, I did have a very-closed mind about leaving my – uprooting my family and leaving my friends of 30 years from Washington.  So I came down here with him, and the Cowens took us out to breakfast.  And Marjorie and Scott were so much fun.  They were so real.  They were so interesting, that I instantly decided I wanted to make “new” friends.  And better than being cool, wonderful, great people, they are were such – and are such – enthusiastic, passionate advocates of Tulane and New Orleans, and so insistent that we join the Tulane family and be here, that I left that breakfast and I found us a home by lunchtime.  So thank you, new friends, for bringing us here.  

Graduates, I point that out by saying you could not have -- of all of the gifts bestowed upon from this fine institution, you could not have bigger, better boosters than the Cowens.  They will always have your back, and they epitomize your motto – “Not for one’s self, but for one’s own.”  Thank you again.  (Applause)

So I am going to introduce my husband.  I have no – you know, Graduates, I don’t question your wisdom.  I don’t question your ability to go forth and change the world.  I don’t question anything other than – why would did you pick James Carville as your commencement speaker?  (Laughter)  

It is rare that the greatest words of wisdom would come on graduation day, especially coming from your speaker today.  And before we get to him, I do think probably that your greatest wisdom has been gleaned from the people who got you to this day, and that would be your parents and your families.  (Applause)  And can I say to – as a citizen – to you, parents and families,  thank you for these present and future leaders.  And I can I say, as a parent, thank you for letting us bask in this day, where we can enjoy with you the wonders of your greatest joy, and your deepest pride, and your most profound love – your babies all grown-up and accomplished here.  Thank you for letting us enjoy this day with you.  (Applause)

Well, I question your judgment, though, to have James as your official speaker – not because he’s a Democrat, but because he went to LSU.  (Laughter)  So I want you to know that I’m taking it upon myself in the next Battle of the Rag when he go outs the Super Tiger, all dressed up in purple, I’ll be cheering on Tulane.  I’ll be sending him off – (Mary Matalin holds up a green glove) -- I know this is my garden glove, but I had to improvise.  We’ve only been here one day, so I need an official green glove.  And do not worry that – fear that my supporting the opposition would upset my husband.  Ours is a marriage that can stand a healthy rivalry.

The choice of Tulane is also curious, for an institution of such long and esteemed scholarship, to have this tiger here – and I guess not just any tiger, but one whose 4.0 on graduation day represented his blood-alcohol level.  (Laughter)  They think I’m kidding.  (Laughter).  In 1836, the first Tulane Medical School commencement speaker delivered his address in Latin, and LSU Law School, when a famed jurist laid out the basic legal principles -- which of course are in Latin, to James -- James responded, “Uh, Professor, I flunked Spanish three times across the street.  I didn’t come here to learn a foreign language.”  Somehow he did earn his JD, and he woke up one morning and said, “If I had to hire a lawyer, I wouldn’t hire me.”  

So the loss to the legal profession was an historical gain, I suppose, to the political world, when that trouble-making tiger turned into the Ragin’ Cajun.  He left the bayou for the beltway.  He dropped the pretty southern cheerleaders for a crazy Chicago conservative, and that unlikely couple, who did have an uneasy start in that infamous election, and ended up as President Cowen said, “Having their wedding in the Big Easy,” so we are – we are 17 years beyond that, and two dazzling daughters, and three Presidents later – two Republicans and one Democrat, but who’s counting?  (Laughter)  And he’s coming back home – he’s coming back home.

And before I officially introduce him, I want to say about the home that you’ve been in for the last years here -- Tulane is a remarkable place -- it’s been a home to students from all 50 states.  It’s been the home to students from over 40 countries around the world.  And the future of our world literally depends – literally depends on your taking the skills and the gifts that were given to you’re here and bringing them to the world.

And don’t take for granted – I know you don’t – it’s clear from your appreciation that you don’t take for granted this education, but it was no fluke that President Clinton came here to launch his first college global initiative.  And in that one afternoon, James and I heard more innovative ideas, and more sophistication, from the college kids than – I shouldn’t say “more,” but let’s say equal to what we’ve heard at cabinet-level deliberations for years.  You completely inspired us with your – the creativity; the way you come to approach problems; the way in which you think.  And most important for us, and for the world, and certainly for our country, your complete lack of cynicism about the political process.

James and I do not share a political philosophy, but we do share a love for the political process, and we do think it’s the premier vehicle for solving problems and forging progress.  And as you heard, and as you know, and as you’ve internalized, and as you have in your mind and your heart, your time here as given you those skills, has given you that character, has given you that road to put your thinking into action.

Now, but my husband’s thinking – particularly when it’s put into action gives me fits -- the man I’m about to introduce does bring the same passion and commitment to our lives, and has blessed my girls – our girls and me -- in very countless special ways with his wisdom.  You know him through his auspicious public life – audacious public life, some would say.  But his real genius is the way he lives his own life.

Let me introduce James through just a few of his maxims for maximum living – while they’re not novelty and they may be memorable to you by virtue of his application of them, I hope just these three that have been particularly useful for me, you’ll remember if you come to the same situations.

The first of his maxims to me – or for himself, as I’ve used – is “Get out of yourself.”  Whenever I’m particularly in a flummoxed situation or in a flummoxed, trying impasse, he says the same thing: “That’s because we think like you think.  You need to think like they think if you want to get your point across.  It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.”  Now, some cynics might point to this maxim as being the root to opposing, or pandering; but honesty, when it’s earnestly in policy making, and more importantly for our purposes today, life at large, it’s the root of understanding, and empathy, and coordination, and progress.  “Think like they think.  Reach out.”  That’s number one, “Get out of yourself.”

Lesson Number 2, “Pick your battles and then fight to the finish.”  Military strategy teaches us that not every hill is worth taking, but if it’s worth taking a stand, you must stand firm.  We’ve seen James in a few political battles that looked like Kamikaze missions; but when the dust cleared and the smoke moved away, he was still standing, and his mission -- or cause -- often – more often than not – triumphed.  When it comes to his wife and his daughters, he says that he’s the Neville Chamberlain husband and father: “Retreat, capitulate and surrender.”  (Laughter)  I don’t know if that’s so, but if it is, I’ll say in his defense, we do have the super secret ultimate weapon – “girl power,” honey, but even your girls, in every case, join you, I hope, in been watching him be an inspiration for reaching down and pulling up the very best of what it takes to be straight and true and loyal.

And Maxim 3 of his, which is the most important of all to me – and to paraphrase the Beatles -- “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”  James is no Beatle aficionado.  What happened after Elvis – he’s “clueless” --  but he embrace this concept and it carried me through a particularly vulnerable moment.  At age 45, when we learned we were going to have our second baby, which was a fervent answer to our – it was an answer to our fervent prayers – I broke down and I cried.  I was so scared that I would not be able to love as well, and as deeply, our second miracle baby as I was our first miracle baby.  My precious husband took me and hugged me, and he, the oldest of eight kids, said, “Honey, love doesn’t divide.  Love multiplies.  The more you got to love, the more love you got to give” – you know John Lennon.

But he’s the best husband, and the best daddy, and the best friend, and is so grateful to be able to celebrate your moving on today, your special graduation.  James Carville, welcome home!