“Live from Tsongas Arena, it’s Rachel Dratch!”
Dratch, dressed demurely in a lacy green sheath, waited with 's 2012 graduates backstage at the Tsongas Arena Sunday afternoon. Swarms of press, photographers, almost-graduates and even black-gowned teachers didn't daunt the surprisingly shy commedienne, actor, and author.
Her mom, Elaine, stood by quietly and watched as her daughter maneuvered through every request with that trademark Dratch smile.
This 1984 Lexington High School graduate, voted class comic 28-years ago, fulfilled her destiny and came back to inspire those waiting for diplomas.
“Ah, Tsongas Arena, in Lowell,” she said to the kids as she stood behind the podium. “It’s great to be back. How well I remember hanging out at the textile mills.”
The smelting factory and the dye and cutting manufacturers were great places too, she said to a chuckling audience.
Dratch last spoke 12 years ago at the 2000 graduation. Why did she wait a dozen years to return?
“Very few families have siblings 12 years apart,” she explained. What are the odds anyone heard her speach, and why couldn’t she use the same one, she asked.
“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” Dratch joked.
One of her life lessons was “always feel free to plagiarize yourself.” And she planned on doing just that.
“You brought in a lazy actor,” she said. “Hey, you should have invited the Dalai Lama."
Nelson Mandela -- also referenced in the supposedly once-read speech -- and the Dalai Lama couldn’t have roused the students or retiring Principal Natalie Coen nearly as much.
Dratch read aloud and was awed at her almost precognizant predictions of cell phone texting and Facebook.
By then it was clear this was no second hand speech. She remembered familiar hangouts and activities, but not a robotics team.
“You’re a bunch of nerds,” she said to laughter.
While her speech elicited giggles and chuckles her message was serious. She referenced them with her own comic improvisational lessons. Never deny your partner, and go with whatever they throw at you and add a layer to it. , elicited laughter too, but made her point.
“Be an idea creator,” she said, and don’t deny your or someone else’s ideas.
“Have fun, kind of similar to what Ralph Waldo Emerson said,” Dratch said referring to Board of Selectmen Chair Deb Mauger’s earlier, and far more serious, reference to a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote.
So, “take your bad ass nerdy selves out into the world -- you and your robot army!”
Here's that Emerson quote, as read by Mauger and referenced by Dratch:
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."