SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The task was a fairly easy one: Introduce the president of the university before he gave his annual fall address.
In my new job, Faculty Senate Chair at CSU, Sacramento, this kind of things pops up all the time. I spoke more before large groups in the first week of school than I had in the five years previous. (I'm not counting standing up in front of class of 25 undergraduates. They have to listen.)
This day, I knew there could be a sizable crowd and so uncharacteristically I wrote out a few key phrases and actually pulled the president's resume to be able to give him a nice warm welcome.
Unfortunately, I waited until the morning of the introduction to actually do that and by the time I had my talk all ready and my tie knotted in a nice Windsor, it was a half-hour before I was expected to be on stage.
And I live 20 minutes from campus.
Miatas are very handy in such situations and I blasted to campus in the requisite time, breezing in 5 minutes before showtime where I was faced with a somewhat frantic aide-de-camp of the president who was afraid I was not going to show.
Not show! Please! Ye of little faith. (And speaking of faith, thank God that I found parking right away - or I would have been late.)
Then I walked into the University ballroom and realized that there were hundreds of people in the audience - maybe close to 1,000. And their wasn't just a simple podium, it was a real raised stage with a podium, a sound system with plenty of horsepower, cameras all over the place, and teleprompters.
The teleprompters were not for me - they were for the president - but they made a great thing to joke about. And getting a laugh when you utter your very first sentence in front of that big a crowd takes all the steam out of any potential stage fright. The laughs continued through my introduction (and not always during the laugh lines...hmmmm...) and after about five minutes I got to say, "Please welcome the president..."
But the real surprise came a few hours later when I walked into a faculty member's office and heard my voice on his computer.
The speech - and my brief introduction - was posted on the university website and there I was, in full living color for the university and the world to see.
I am very glad I didn't tell the joke that I was considering about how many university presidents it takes to screw in a light bulb. It seemed hysterically unny when I wrote it...
But perhaps I should save it for another day. Maybe I'll refine it a little and use it in the spring when I get to introduce him again at his spring campus address.
Or the other one I made up.
There were these three university presidents on an airplane...