We all have our crutches — all of us, no matter how experienced a speaker we are. Past-president Susan’s crutch is a sometimes overdependence on notes.
But Susan didn’t look at her notes even once during this week’s great speech. She didn’t need them.
It was a speech about … the scarf. Item of apparel. Wardrobe completer. If you think that isn’t a weighty enough topic to hang a great speech on, think again.
Because it wasn’t really a speech about scarves. It was – like all good stories –about people. We would meet the woman who lived by the scarf and sadly died by it – the flamboyant dancer Isadora Duncan, who was strangled when her flowing scarf got caught in the spokes as she blasted down the highway on her motorcycle.
We would meet Susan’s mother, a great wearer of scarves herself, who bequeathed to Susan the yellow knit number that she put on, with great care, a simple loose knot in front. (Is there a more intimate act than putting on a piece of clothing your Mom or Dad wore? Certainly, there can’t be many more powerful gestures to include in a speech.)
Susan owns around sixty scarves, and she’d brought at least a dozen of them. One by one she produced them, like a magician, and put them on with quiet theatrical flourish. Scarves of silk, of cotton, of pashmina wool – a great thing to bring on an airplane, by the way, far better than those crappy thin blankets you could read the emergency-landing card through.
The meeting was held on 12/12/12, possibly some ominous date on the Mayan calendar. Also the fifth day of Hanukah, supposedly the “darkest day” during that eight-day ritual of enduring light. Henceforth, at VanCore— we’re saying right now — it will be a day to toss away your crutch. President Connie proposed the toast that held the meeting together: