D. None of the above

Want to know why biscuits in North Carolina are so much better than they are in the rest of the world?

I did, which was why I interrupted a woman who was loading her groceries at a Harris Teeter supermarket and chatting with the cashier.

One word: love.

“Well, it’s love and a lot of butter,” she said. “You can’t be afraid of the butter.”

She suggested that biscuits were invented in North Carolina and that everyone’s grandmother has a recipe for them. They all taste somewhat different, but they’re all so much better than everywhere else.

That was just one of the many stories we’ve overheard ever since we picked up our two high-school-aged kids, threw our unwitting and desperately frustrated cats into their carriers, and relocated to the Tar Heel State.

Putting the cats in the carriers is always challenging, but it was as if they recognized that the trip would
be especially difficult for them. The older one, who is cautious and only likes members of our family, stuck his paws out as we tried to lower him into the case.

It reminded me of all the times our children used to arch their backs as we tried to put them in the car seat. Reasoning with the cats didn’t work, but eventually we won the battle.

We arrived here during a heat wave in the Northeast. As it turns out, our first few days have been a few degrees cooler than what we left behind. Our son observed on the way to the airport that we used to make this drive when we were leaving home, but we were now taking the drive toward a plane that would take us to our new home.

Our interactions with people here have been remarkable. For starters, it really is challenging to find someone who is originally from Charlotte. We have met people from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

The Northeasterners have universally described how much they enjoy living here. Some of their own complaints are the lack of bagels and authentic Chinese food.

People, wherever they are from when they’re here, have been noticeably courteous, even before they read our Yankees shirts, our Brooklyn Cyclones hats and the names of Northeastern schools on our attire. I was pulling out of a store with an enormous rental car. The drivers from two lanes in front of me stopped to let me go.

The North Carolinians are also more than ready to share their stories. Randal, the driver who delivered our cars, gave us advice about where to go for mechanical and auto-body needs. He also shared a few harrowing
anecdotes from his days driving a truck and responding to various emergency calls.

On my trip to the grocery store, where I met the woman who was so proud of her biscuits, I also noticed how people violate the typical New York peripheral vision rule. You know how when you’re in the city and you’re walking down the street, you’re supposed to notice people without staring at them or looking them directly in the eye? The opposite was true among the people I saw in the supermarket. They not only look you in the eye, but they greet you with a “hello” and “how are you doing?”

While I will never be able to test the North Carolina biscuit theory because of my lactose intolerance, I would have to say that, so far, our first impressions of our new state have been remarkably positive.

First of all, we’re going to need a big cake. No, I know you think most cakes are big and that most people’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs, but this one is going to have to be huge.

You see, we’re about to celebrate an important birthday. Next week, it’s the 242nd birthday of the country, so we’ll need a place to put all the candles.

So, what do we get for the country that has everything?

Well, for starters, it depends on what you imagine represents the country. Is it the Statue of Liberty? The bald eagle? A baseball game? Mount Rushmore? The Grand Canyon?

Seriously, this is one huge country and we haven’t even discussed the last two states to join the union.

Alaska is a gem, with vistas stretching as far as the eye can see, as shimmering spawning salmon make streams and rivers glow orange, while bears nibble here and there as cars and buses pass them along the sides of the highways.

Hawaii reminded everyone this year that it’s a volcanic archipelago. It’s a magnificent and lush combination of majestic mountains, bamboo forests and striking cliffs.

So, what would this great country of ours want for its birthday?

Well, maybe it would want us, even for a day, to all get along. We are all Americans, we have all heard the
stories about the forefathers who
fought for this country, who defied the British, and who wanted what was best for them and, all these years later, us.

Maybe it would want us to tidy up. After all, who doesn’t want to look good on their birthday, right? We could clean up our yards, clean up our neighbor’s yard, remove trash from the area around the school, a place so many enthusiastic children recently abandoned for the start of the summer.

Maybe we should take a moment to think about how we are helping ourselves, or others, reach the American Dream. We all want life to be better, but maybe we can encourage others to strive for, and reach, a dream that anyone from anywhere could reach greatness. We are not like Europeans of past centuries, who limited
opportunities for success by class, gender or ancestry.

The home of the free and the land of the brave is all about allowing anyone from any walk of life to reach their potential and, more importantly, to decide their potential.

America is about celebrating youth. We are a young country, filled with hope for the future, unbridled
optimism and joy.

Regardless of what politicians in Washington say, we are also a country that likes to laugh, even at ourselves. We have a great sense of humor. Need a laugh? Watch “Bridesmaids” or “Groundhog Day” — or if in the mood for something older, “Animal House.”

We pull apart and then we come together. We speak with different accents, depending on where we come from or what part of the world our ancestors originally inhabited.

When we come together, we are unstoppable, finding our best selves from the roles we play in companies, on teams, or in close-knit families that stand ready, willing and able to support each other through any challenge.

Sure, we can hang the flag, eat a hot dog, have a barbecue and sing a few American songs to celebrate our country. But, hey, maybe we can also look for the best in each other and in ourselves as we again give hope to the notion that a rising tide of optimism, of cooperation, of compassion lifts all boats.

My family has become archeologists in our own home. After 12 years of collecting artwork from the kids’ classes in school, saving report cards and filing away binders from earlier grades, we are sifting through all that material, jettisoning or recycling what we don’t need.

Some of the finds are so remarkable that they stop us in our sorting tracks. My high school daughter isn’t much of a morning person. She often prefers short sounds or gestures in the car on the way to school, rather than actual conversations that might require her to form words.

As we were going through a pile of material, we found a note from her nursery school teacher. She described a charming little girl who often takes a while to get going each morning. That description is so apt today that we realized how much of people’s patterns and personalities form early in life.

Then, sorting further, we found papers from her spectacular first-grade teacher. A young woman with a soft voice and a determined style, her teacher brought out the best in our daughter, even early in the morning.

Our daughter kept a diary in that class, in which she shared stories about the family’s weekend activities. Clearly, her brother was jealous of that writing, as we also found a diary from him in which he thanks her for creating a similar book for him to record his experiences. He shared his thoughts from the weekend, and the rest of the family readily wrote back to him.

His sister also kept handwritten notes from her first-grade teacher. The letters are all clear and distinct, and offer a positive and supportive tone. Her teacher wrote to her, without talking down to her. What a wonderful role model. This teacher, through form and content, offered a ray of sunshine to our daughter even then, which was probably why we kept the papers.

These notes today take on a different meaning for us, as the teacher succumbed to cancer at a young age just a few years after our daughter had the privilege of being in her class. Our daughter was recently in a high school English class in which her first-grade teacher’s husband served as a part-time instructor. She shared some of these notes with him. He was delighted to take them home to his daughter, who was a toddler when
her mother died. His daughter has particularly appreciated seeing her mother’s handwriting and feeling an indirect connection to the encouraging words she offered.

We have also sorted through dozens — OK, hundreds — of pictures that have transported us to earlier memories. We have a photo of our 1-year old son standing on the warning track at the old Yankee Stadium, bunched up in a winter coat on a December day.

We also found numerous pictures of our son on baseball fields of his own, surrounded by younger versions of teammates who have stuck with him through the years, as well as of friends who have gone their separate ways — or have pursued other sports.

Amid all the trophies from sports teams, we discovered certificates indicating that one or both of our children had been successful lunch helpers.

We have unearthed old VHS tapes of movies we watched numerous times as a family, including a few Disney classics and a surprisingly amusing Barbie version of “The Princess and the Pauper.”

In addition to sending us down memory lane, sorting through all the accumulated clutter has made the house seem so much larger, giving us room to add modern memories and memorabilia to our collection.

It happens everywhere, all day long. There isn’t a moment in any day when someone, somewhere isn’t waiting for something.

They might be looking at a protruding stomach waiting for their baby’s birth or standing in line waiting to order lunch. They might even be staring at a phone waiting for a return text message while the three moving dots suggest someone is typing, waiting for commercials to end to see whether the contestants won on a game show — or waiting for word from a school of choice.

I have a friend who is writhing through the exquisite agony of the school wait-list.

He tries to think about other things, like the exams he has this week, the fate of his beloved baseball team in a game or the plans for his long-awaited summer.

To his credit, my friend has allowed himself to stop thinking about the school decision over which he has no control at this point. Well, most of the time.

He’d like to pick up the phone, call the school and ask, as politely as possible, if he got in today.

When we’re younger, we struggle with the wait of a coming birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah or a vacation.

We check the calendar months in advance, planning a party, considering the invitation list, ordering food we may barely taste because we’re so preoccupied playing with our friends that day.

In the days that lead up to the birthday, the clock drags, slowed down by our desire to get to Friday.

The night before children receive numerous presents during a holiday, sleep evades them, as they wonder what’s wrapped and ready the next morning.

If we’re lucky, birthdays and holidays are almost guaranteed to bring presents, even if the bike isn’t the right color or the sweater doesn’t fit.

Those waits are more like yield signs on a highway, where we know, eventually, we’ll merge onto our preferred roadway.

To continue with the road analogy, what if the wait is like a yellow light and the next step is a red light?

If the light turns red — in this case, the school calls to share their disappointment that the person won’t be able to attend — does my friend wish he could go back in time to the waiting period, where a “yes” was still a possibility?

Is not knowing our fate more difficult than receiving a definitive answer? It depends on whom you ask. For some people, the notion of waiting for some kind of resolution is far worse than solid information. They move on with their lives once they hear the news.

For others, the wait allows them to play emotional ping-pong, throwing themselves from one side of a possibility to the other. The resolution can make them feel as if the game with themselves has ended, requiring that they make new decisions with new wait times.

While people wait, they often look for signs. If a school stays in touch, maybe that means he is closer to getting in. If a light turns green just as he arrives at the intersection, maybe that also means good news
is coming.

We wait for so much: For someone to call on us when we raise our hand, for someone we like to pay
attention to us, for a doctor to “see us now” and for the opportunity to do something extraordinary.

Given how much of our lives involve waiting, you’d think we’d be experts at it. And yet, every so often, we hold our breath and hope the delay is only temporary, making the next step — or the next wait — that much sweeter.

I’m starting a new movement. I’m going to call it CCDD, for CounterCulture Dan Dunaief.

Hey, look, if other people can put their names on buildings, airlines and bills that become laws, why can’t I, right?

My movement is all about trying to get away from a world in which large groups of people line up on either side of an issue, without much consensus or common ground in between. The polar opposites are like a barbell, with heavy weights on either end and a thin line between them. The counterculture lives along that line.

So, I’m going to establish my own rules for CCDD. For starters, I’m not going to hurry to do anything. I’m going to smile when the person in front of me doesn’t hit the gas as soon as the light turns green. I’m going to let people go ahead of me. Let’s not get ridiculous about this, right? I mean, if I’m waiting for a sandwich and I’m starving, I’m not going to let everyone go, but, I’m just saying, I’m going to take my foot off the accelerator and stop acting as if I have to race to every event.

OK, I’m also going to stop acting as if I know everything. Everyone is supposed to know everything, or at least fake it. Besides, if we don’t know something, we can check on the internet, which is the greatest source of information and misinformation ever invented. I’m going to say, “I don’t know,” and try to reason through what I recall from my education, from my reading and from people around me before asking Siri, Alexa or any other computer created voice for help. I can and will try to figure it out on my own.

I’m not going to read anything shorter than the length of a tweet message. No offense to Twitter, but the president of the galaxy vents his extreme frustration with people inside and outside his cabinet regularly through this system, so strike while the iron is hot, right? Except that I don’t want to read short ideas, short sentences or shorthand. I want to read a full, detailed thought and idea.

I’m going to care more than I ever have about grammar and spelling. I’m going to encourage others to care about the difference between counsel (advice) and council (a collection of people) because words matter.

I will look carefully at nature whenever I have the chance. I plan to consider the importance of the journey, even as I head toward a destination. The ends will not justify the means, even if it’s easier to cut corners and to take small liberties along the way.

I will believe in facts. This one might be the hardest to live by because, after all, what is a fact today? How do we know, for sure, that something is true? I will research information and will make my own informed decision.

In CCDD, I’m going to listen to people who speak to me, and ignore those who shout to get my attention. If what you say is important and relevant, the value should speak for itself.

Finally, I’m going to celebrate my differences with other people. I’m not going to assume someone passionate about a belief different from my own is wrong. I am going to try to listen attentively, so that I can meet them somewhere closer to that barbell line. If they can change me, maybe I can change them?

From the time we’re teenagers, we’re taught to control our emotions. As we get older, people tell us not to make emotional decisions.

We see our emotions, particularly the ones in the moment, as being at odds with the rational decision-making side of our thought processes.

We roll our eyes and shake our heads when a teenager makes decisions or declarations that seem driven more by the hormones surging through their growing bodies than by the intellect we hope they’ve developed.

And yet, every so often, we and our teenagers take those raw emotions out for a few hours or even days.

This past weekend, my wife and I did our periodic Texas two-step, where she brought our son to his baseball game in one state and I drove hundreds of miles to our daughter’s volleyball tournament in another.

The journey involves considerable effort, finding food that doesn’t upset allergies or sensitive stomachs at a time when indigestion or a poorly timed pit stop could derail the day.

The games themselves are filled with a wide range of emotions, as a player’s confidence and ability can rise and fall quickly from one point to the next, with slumping shoulders quickly replaced by ecstatic high fives.

In the stands and outside the lines, the emotional echoes continue to reverberate.

One girl sat next to her father, sobbing uncontrollably with her ankle high on the chair in front of her. Her father put his arm around her shoulders and spoke quiet, encouraging words into her ear. Her coach came over, in front of a stand filled with strangers, and said the girl would be able to play the next day as soon as the swelling in her ankle went down — the coach didn’t want to risk further injury. The girl nodded that she heard her coach, but couldn’t stop the torrent of tears.

Not far from her, a mother seethed as her daughter missed a shot. The mother was angry, defensive and, eventually, apologetic to the parents of the other players for her daughter’s performance. Other parents assured her that it was fine and that everyone could see her daughter was trying her best.

Another parent hooted and hollered, clapping long after the point ended, as her daughter rose above her diminutive frame to hit the ball around a group of much taller girls.

Many of the emotional moments included unbridled joy, as a group of girls continued to embrace each other after winning a tough match, replaying point after point and laughing about the time the ball hit them in the head or they collided with a teammate on the floor.

What will they remember next week, next month or in 20 years? Will it be satisfying when they find a picture of a younger version of themselves, beaming from ear to ear with girls they may not have seen for many years?

Even if they do think about one particular point or a strategic decision that paid off in a game against talented competition, they will also remember where and how they expressed those raw, dramatic emotions.

While feelings can get in the way of whatever grand plan we’re executing in our head, holding us back from
taking a risk or preventing us from showing how much we care, they can and do enhance the way we experience our lives. Despite all the work driving behind slow-moving vehicles which take wide right turns and encourage you to call a number to let someone know how they’re driving, the effort — even when the event doesn’t turn out as well as we might hope — is well worth the opportunity to drop the mask and indulge those emotions.

Astronaut Scott Kelly and author Tom Wolfe. Photo courtesy of Amiko Kauderer

By Daniel Dunaief

How often do you get to talk to someone whose legend loomed large over your childhood?

Last year, I had the privilege of interviewing author Tom Wolfe, who died last week at the age of 88. Wolfe wrote “The Right Stuff,” “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” among others. I spoke with Wolfe about astronaut Scott Kelly, who was so inspired by “The Right Stuff” that he directed a life he considered somewhat aimless toward becoming a fighter pilot and, eventually, an astronaut.

My conversation was rewarding and memorable, so I thought I’d share my interview with the legendary author.

DD: Kelly credits you with putting him on a path that led him to spend almost a year aboard the International Space Station. Is there a satisfaction that comes from that?

TW: Nothing else I’ve written has had such a beautiful result. He told me he’d been floundering around trying to figure out what to do with his life. He hadn’t been doing well in school. Then he just got the idea of going into space and became an astronaut.

DD: Did you know he took “The Right Stuff” with him?

TW: He sent me from the space station a picture of the cover on his iPad. That was one of the greatest messages I ever got.

DD: Do you think Kelly’s mission increased the excitement about space?

TW: There’s been a general lack of a sense of heroism in much of the post-World War II era and there were people who responded to the space program in general in that fashion.

DD: How does the excitement now compare to the early days of the space program?

TW: John Glenn’s return created a lot of excitement. At that time, we seemed to be at war in space with the Russians. That was what kept the space program going. There was always this threat. It’s very hard to hit the Earth from space. You’ve got three speeds: the speed of what you fired the rocket with, then you’ve got the speed at the end of that opening shot and you’ve got the speed of hitting the Earth, which is moving.

DD: How do you think people will react to Kelly’s mission?

TW: It remains to be seen whether it inspires young people the way the Mercury program did.

DD: What drove the space program until that point?

TW: Wernher van Braun [a German engineer who played a seminal role in advancing American rocket science] spoke in his last year. The point of the space program was not to beat the Russians. It was to prepare for the day when the sun burns out and we have to leave Earth and go somewhere else. It’s hard to imagine everybody shipping off to another heavenly body.

DD: Getting back to Kelly, how difficult do you think Kelly’s mission was?

TW: Scott Kelly’s adventures were a test of the human body and the psyche. Being that removed from anybody you could talk to and see must be a terrible stress. That’s what he and others in the space station are chosen for.

DD: Do people like Kelly still need “the right stuff” to be astronauts?

TW: It’s the same except anyone coming into the program is more confident that these things can be done. For Mercury astronauts, these things were totally new. The odds against you, the odds of death, were very high.

DD: What advice did you give to Kelly when he started writing his book?

TW: Begin at the beginning. So many of the astronauts and other people who have memorable experiences will start with the adventure to get you interested. Then, the second chapter, suddenly you’re saying, “Harold Bumberry was born in 1973,” and it makes you take a deep breath [and say], ‘OK, here it comes.” Whereas starting at the beginning always works.

DD: What do you think of the movies made about your books?

TW: I think they’re terrible. Three of my books were made into movies and I disliked them all. The reason being they didn’t do it like I did. You can’t do a lot of things in a movie that you can in print. You’re better at presenting themes, better at dialogue. You can hear it, you can’t get inside a mind of a character the way you can in print. Movies don’t have time.

DD: What impact did Scott Kelly’s being inspired by your book have on you?

TW: It’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.

What do the signs tell us?

In Hawaii, numerous small earthquakes caused parts of Big Island to shake. Geologists, who monitor the islands regularly, warned of a pending volcanic eruption. They were right, clearing people away from lava flows.

How did they know?

It’s a combination of history and science. Researchers in the area point to specific signs that are reflections of patterns that have developed in past years. The small earthquakes, like the feel of the ground trembling as a herd of elephants is approaching in the Serengeti, suggest the movement of magma underneath the ground.

Higher volumes of lava flows could come later on, as in 1955 and 1960, say USGS scientists in the archipelago.

The science involves regular monitoring of events, looking for evidence of what’s going on below the surface. “Hopefully we’ll get smart enough that we can see [tremors] coming or at least be able to use that as a proxy for having people on the ground watching these things,” Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge at USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, explained to KHON2 News in Honolulu.

People look for signs in everything they do, hoping to learn from history and to use whatever evidence is
available to make predictions and react accordingly.

Your doctor does it during your annual physical, monitoring your blood chemistry, checking your heart and lungs, and asking basic questions about your lifestyle.

Scientists around Long Island are involved in a broad range of studies. Geneticists, for example, try to see what the sequence of base pairs might mean for you. Their information, like the data the geologists gather in
Hawaii, doesn’t indicate exactly what will happen and when, but it can suggest developments that might affect you.

Cancer researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Stony Brook University are using tools like the gene editing system called CRISPR to see how changing the genetic code affects the course of development or the pathway for a disease. Gene editing can help localize the regions responsible for the equivalent of destructive events in our own bodies, showing where they are and what sequences cause progression.

Scientists, often working six or seven days a week, push the frontiers of our ability to make sense of
whatever signs they collect. Once they gather that information, they can use it to help create more accurate diagnoses and to develop therapies that have individualized benefits.

Indeed, not all breast cancers are the same, which means that not all treatments will have the same effect. Some cancers will respond to one type of therapy, while others will barely react to the same treatment.

Fundamental, or basic, research is critical to the understanding of translational challenges like treating
Alzheimer’s patients or curing potentially deadly fungal infections.

Indeed, most scientists who “discover” a treatment will recognize the seminal studies that helped them finish a job started years — and in some cases decades — before they developed cures. Treatments often start long before the clinical stages, when scientists want to know how or why something happens. The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake can lead to unexpected and important benefits.

Outside the realm of medicine, researchers on Long Island are working on areas like understanding the climate and weather, and the effect on energy production.

Numerous scientists at SBU and Brookhaven National Laboratory study the climate, hoping to understand how one of the most problematic parts of predicting the weather — clouds — affects what could happen tomorrow or in the next decade.

The research all these scientists do helps us live longer and better lives, offering us early warnings of
developing possibilities.

Scientists not only interpret what the signs tell us, but can also help us figure out the right signs to study.

It’s only May and, despite the warm weather, it feels a bit like October around here, at least, if you talk to fans of the Yankees and Red Sox.

The two best teams in baseball, as of earlier this week, were preparing to go head-to-head in a three-game
series that seemed to have more on the line than a typical series between the heated rivals at this point
in spring.

The Red Sox had that incredibly hot start, winning 17 of their first 19 games, tearing up the league and anyone who dared to try to compete with them. The Yankees, meanwhile, started slowly, sputtering to a .500 record.

And then the Yankees seemed to have gotten as hot as the weather, scoring runs in the clutch, pitching with confidence and bringing in rookies like Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, who play more like seasoned veterans.

On a recent evening, my wife and I made a quick stop to the grocery store. As we were walking out, a friend saw me in my Yankees sweatshirt. The friend asked if the team pulled out a win, even though they were losing 4-0 in the eighth inning.

As my wife waited patiently, I recounted nearly every at bat that led to another improbable Yankees comeback. A man who worked at the supermarket came over to listen, put up his hand to high-five me and said he had a feeling they might come back.

While the team measures the success of the season by the ability to win the World Series, the fans, particularly during a season with so much early promise, can bask in the excitement of individual games or series.

The first season, as the incredibly long 162 games from March through October is called, can include
numerous highlights that allow fans to appreciate the journey, as well as the destination.

Nothing is a given in a game or a season. We attend or watch any game knowing that the walk-off home run the rookie hit could just as easily have been an inning ending double play.

Ultimately, the most important part of the season is the recognition that it is a game. You can see that when the players mob each other at the plate or smile through their interviews with the sideline reporters after a tight contest.

Year after year, all these teams with all their fans hope the season ends with a victory parade. They want to be able to say, “I was there.”

Ultimately, in life, that’s what we’re hoping for. Moments to cheer for friends and family, to celebrate victories and to enjoy these contests.

Indeed, the winners often look back on the moments when nothing came easily, when their team, their family or their opportunity seemed to be so elusive. These are occasions when nothing that seems to go right turns into those where everything goes according to plan. They don’t happen because you’ve got the right fortune cookie, put on the right socks or asked for some deity to help your team beat another team full of equally worthy opponents, whose fans utter the same prayers.

They happen because of the hard work and dedication. They also often happen because people are taking great pride in doing their jobs and being a part of a team.

Right now, it feels like these two blood rivals are well-matched, facing off in a May series that can bring the energy of October. And, hey, if you’re looking to connect with someone, put on a Yankees or Red Sox sweatshirt and head to the supermarket.

This is the season for speeches. We’re about to enter the graduation and wedding time of year, when principals, best men, maids of honor and valedictorians stand in front of a group of people and share their thoughts during these momentous occasions.

For those about to grab the microphone, I’d like to offer my top 10 list of things not to do in a speech — in reverse order.

10. Don’t make inside jokes that no one, outside of your best friend and maybe your sibling, understands. Looking at your friend after you’ve made a joke that no one gets and pointing back and forth between this other person and you only endangers that friendship.

9. Don’t make a speech without practicing. Find someone who can be helpful and not someone who thinks you shouldn’t change anything you do, ever. That honest person might prevent you from saying, “The groom is so lucky. He gets to sleep with Karen — I always wanted to sleep with Karen. I can’t wait to hear about it.”

8. Don’t correct yourself on small details, such as, “Remember when we had that school snowball fight in second grade? No, wait it was first grade, right? No, no, it was second grade. I was right the first time.” Most people won’t care about those details. They’d rather you got it wrong than hear you go play a one person game of memory ping-pong.

7. Don’t forget to thank everyone you should thank. You can acknowledge your friends for helping you get through those tough years, the writers of your favorite movies for giving you a chance to laugh, and the woman at the supermarket for encouraging you to submit an application that got you into a summer program. Never forget to thank your parents, any relatives who are in attendance and the teachers who somehow managed to educate you despite your insistence that their subject was irrelevant.

6. Don’t imagine that alcohol makes you a better singer. It doesn’t. Besides, there’s always an enormous collection of cellphones at any wedding. You can’t erase that horrible rendition of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Ever. Strangers will come up to you and screech at you.

5. Don’t quote someone else extensively. Winston Churchill was a tremendous speechmaker, JFK said some memorable things, too, as did Martin Luther King Jr. Audiences can read and have no desire to hear you butcher an extensive collection of words someone else delivered.

4. Don’t try to sell something. You’re there to support the graduate, the bride and groom and numerous families. This isn’t the time to suggest that people moved by your speech can pick up tissues at your store
because you sell the softest tissues in town.

3. Don’t talk about how difficult it is for you to give a speech. Chances are the audience supports you
anyway, so there is no need to tell them, over and over again. If you aren’t particularly good at public speaking, they’ll notice.

2. Don’t look down at your poorly written notes during the entire speech. If you look up once in a while, you won’t sound like you’re muttering anecdotes and advice in your sleep.

1. Don’t give a long speech. The most important part of any speech is to keep it short. Sure, you might be funny and have some words of wisdom that people will remember. And, yes, you might recall an
anecdote that sheds light on the people in your class. People want to eat dessert, go to a party, or throw their ridiculous square hats with tassels into the air for the annual picture of stupid hats in the air. A good rule of thumb for speeches: When in doubt, leave it out.

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