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    #1

    Help me understand the speech

    Hi, I am now learning through the speech of David McCullough, Jr. - You Are Not Special Commencement Speech - Wellesley High School.

    This is a very nice speech, having a great reputation now.

    The second paragraph:
    So here we are… commencement… life’s great forward-looking ceremony. And don’t say, “What about weddings?” Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective. Weddings are bride-centric pageantry. Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there. No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession. No being given away. No identity-changing pronouncement.

    I would like to know what "Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands" means here.
    I roughly understand he is joking with a wedding ceremony but not really clear with this part.
    Could anyone paraphrase this part so that I can deeply understand what he means here?

    Thank you in advance.

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Help me understand the speech

    Quote Originally Posted by KEN JPN View Post
    Hi, I am now learning through the speech of David McCullough, Jr. - You Are Not Special Commencement Speech - Wellesley High School.

    This is a very nice speech, having a great reputation now.

    The second paragraph:
    So here we are… commencement… life’s great forward-looking ceremony. And don’t say, “What about weddings?” Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective. Weddings are bride-centric pageantry. Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there. No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession. No being given away. No identity-changing pronouncement.

    I would like to know what "Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands" means here.
    I roughly understand he is joking with a wedding ceremony but not really clear with this part.
    Could anyone paraphrase this part so that I can deeply understand what he means here?

    Thank you in advance.
    The writer is joking about the fact that weddings concentrate very heavily on the bride. The bride is the one with the dress, the shoes, the hair, the make-up, she is probably the one who designed the invitations, chose the flowers, arranged the seating plan and a million other things. She's the one who walks up the aisle with everyone staring at her. Her father "gives her away" to her new man. She changes her name.

    Basically, the groom just has to turn up, stand there, and "agree to a list of unreasonable demands" - the wedding vows ("I promise to love, honour ...", agrees to hand over his worldly goods, hang around even when she's ill etc etc).

    In case you're interested, the standard, classic Church of England wedding vows (or unreasonable demands!) are:

    "The original wedding vows, as printed in The Book of Common Prayer, are:
    Groom: I,____, take thee,_____, to be my lawful wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.
    Bride: I,_____, take thee,_____, to be my lawful wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.
    Then, as the groom places the ring on the bride's finger, he says the following:
    With this Ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
    In the Alternative Service Book (1980) two versions of the vows are included: the bride and groom must select one of the versions only. Version A:
    I,N, take you, N, to be my wife (or husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy law, and this is my solemn vow.
    Version B is identical except for the clause "to love and to cherish" where the groom says "to love, cherish, and worship" and the bride says "to love, cherish, and obey"."
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #3

    Re: Help me understand the speech

    The reason this speech is noteworthy is because it was not a "nice" speech. It may have been truthful, but it wasn't nice.

    I would have thought the "unreasonable demands" had to do with the wedding planning, but you have a point that he was probably talking about the vows.

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    #4

    Re: Help me understand the speech

    Wow, thank you very, very much for your quick, excellent explanation!
    The additional information is also very interesting and instructive.

    Now, let me go on, may I?

    And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos? Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy. Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… on the way to the refrigerator. And then there’s the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced. A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.

    "their fathers" here means "the fathers of groom, right?
    Why "joy and disbelief"? JOY and DISBELIEF sound opposite.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Help me understand the speech

    Quote Originally Posted by KEN JPN View Post
    Wow, thank you very, very much for your quick, excellent explanation!
    The additional information is also very interesting and instructive.

    Now, let me go on, may I?

    And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos? Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy. Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… on the way to the refrigerator. And then there’s the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced. A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.

    "their fathers" here means "the fathers of groom, right?
    Why "joy and disbelief"? JOY and DISBELIEF sound opposite.
    There are several reality TV shows which follow brides in the lead-up to their wedding. One shot which appears a lot is that of the bride emerging from a changing room in a bridal shop, wearing her wedding dress for the very first time. Usually, the bride's mother (and sister and cousin and best friend and dog!) are waiting in the shop and when she comes out of the dressing room, they usually cry! This is, of course, happy crying. There is also sometimes a look of disbelief on their face - "I can't believe how beautiful you look", "I can't believe my baby's getting married" etc etc.

    So yes, the writer is referring to the very unlikely situation of a reality TV show where the cameras follow the groom to watch him try on his tuxedo for the first time, watched by his father who will presumably cry in joy and disbelief etc etc. I'm fairly certain that does not actually happen!
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #6

    Re: Help me understand the speech

    Very interesting! You explanation about the background of western wedding makes me understand the joke in the speech very well. Could you also explain the "joy and disbelief" part we well?

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    #7

    Re: Help me understand the speech

    The disbelief is that someone would actually want to marry their sons, I believe.

  3. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Help me understand the speech

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    The disbelief is that someone would actually want to marry their sons, I believe.
    On a less cynical note, I think some parents simply cannot believe that their "baby" has grown up and is going off to get married. I think I mentioned that in my first response.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #9

    Re: Help me understand the speech

    Oh, I see.
    Feeling joy and at the same time the father cannot believe that his daughter is getting married.
    Complex feeling, mixture of joy and loneliness. Kind of that?
    What "disbelief" here means is clear to me now. Thanks!

    Next part:
    Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… on the way to the refrigerator. And then there’s the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced. A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.

    The red letter part is hard to understand.
    I hope you can help, if only you have time.

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    #10

    Re: Help me understand the speech

    Hi KEN,

    "procrastinate" means "delay" or "postpone". So, after leaving it for later for a zillion times, a man would just need the time between the two halves of a (for instance, football or basketball) match, which I guess is around 10-15 minutes, to get married. And he would still have time to go to the fridge for a cold drink before the game resumed.

    Greetings,

    charliedeut
    Please be aware that I'm neither a native English speaker nor a teacher.

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