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Vladimir Eliseev
Vladimir Eliseev

The Salute To Laughter



I am here under false pretenses. I must have missed out someplace in reading all the materials that have been coming across the desk, because I thought that we were coming here to honor the Members of the House and the Senate and salute them. So, I don't care what you say this dinner is; I'm going to salute the people I came here to salute. [Laughter]




The Salute to Laughter


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We also moved against waste and fraud with a task force, including our Inspectors General, who have already found thousands and thousands of people who've been dead for as long as 7 years and are still receiving their benefit checks. Now, I've heard of cradle to grave security -- [laughter] -- but cradle to the Pearly Gates is something else. [Laughter] Who said you can't take it with you? [Laughter]


The pair were among a host of well-wishers that saluted Reiner at Avery Fisher including Michael McKean, James Caan, Michael Douglas, Barry Sonnenfeld, and Martin Scorsese. The Chaplin is also a major fundraiser for the Film Society, with this year's efforts garnering about $1.4 million.


While many American Olympians who win gold in Rio place their right hands over their hearts when listening to "The Star-Spangled Banner" on the podium, others do their own thing. Take Michael Phelps, who after winning the 200-meter butterfly earlier this week stood on the podium with his arms by his side, almost overcome with emotion (and then laughter) as he accepted his 20th career Olympic gold medal.


Now that the one-armed salute smacked more of totalitarianism than of American patriotism, Americans abandoned the gesture that had been a symbol of national unity for 50 years. The 1942 U.S. Flag Code attempted to distance the Pledge of Allegiance from the country's avowed enemies, instructing saluters to put their right hand over their heart while reciting the Pledge, and also included instructions for people to salute the flag with their right hand over their heart while listening to "The Star-Spangled Banner." (Though the song was written back in 1814, it had only been the United States' official anthem since 1931.)


by Jennifer Greenstein Altmann Wit and wisdom were the order of the day Monday, May 31, as members of Princeton's class of 2004 gathered for a laughter-filled Class Day ceremony that celebrated their accomplishments and saluted the parents, faculty and staff members who helped them reach this milestone.


Sketches include Salute to law and order, Miss America, General Bullwright's message, Lucy tennis blackouts, Madame Curie, Blind date, Lucy on Italian-Jewish life, Ruth Christian/liquor runners, Laugh-In girls cheerleading squad, Nanette want ads, China/Russia border, Marine news, Laugh-In salutes adult books, Salute to morality, Stripper bit with Dick and Ruth, Lucy Roller derby, and Dan, Dick and Lucie production number. Featuring Lucie Arnaz and Nanette Fabray.


GENERAL RENO: And he gave me a perspective ofWashington that has held me in good stead ever since. I am very touched, and perhaps you know one otherperson that I think would be touched by this. Dr. JeanJones Purdue was a great advocate for older people inMiami. She died not too long ago, and she taught me anextraordinary amount of wonderful information aboutthis subject. I salute her.


I salute and commend the AARP Foundation withthe ABA Commission for Legal Problems of the elderly,the National Senior Citizens Law Center, and the Centerfor Social Gerontology, for reinstituting thisopportunity for advocates for older people to gettogether with the legal community to get together for aconference that, just listening to you as I walked byyou, there was an enthusiasm and a spirit that was kindof contagious.


This democratic comparative is among thereasons your work in this area, where many of you havebeen pioneers, is so vital, and I just salute you forall your efforts. The law can be a mighty force forfreedom. It can provide the rules for peaceful conductof our lives. It can protect our property. Under it,we are supposedly all equal. These are the principlesupon which this Nation was founded, but for too manypeople in America the law means little more than thepaper it is written on and because of your efforts thatnumber is being reduced, but we must do so much more.


GENERAL RENO: The church -- at first, thefamily up front laughed out loud. The rest of thechurch was trying to control its laughter and finallyrealized we were laughing, and the whole place justroared, as with a wave of laughter, because they knewher.


President Bush has appointed some 100 Americans of Asian ancestry (AAA) to his administration. The 19 Senate-confirmed positions include two Cabinet members: Secretaries of Labor Elaine Chao and Transportation Norm Mineta. Here, we have Sam Mok, Assistant Secretary of Labor. As Chief Financial Officer, he has to find ways to spend $55 billion--(laughter)--and account for every penny of it. The level and number of Americans of Asian ancestry (AAA) in the Bush Administration are history and record setting, higher than all previous administrations combined.


Twenty-six years ago this month, I moved to New York. I had arrived in Connecticut in June 1976 to start my new life as a free man. After picking apples and washing dishes for seven months, I decided to do something different. In January 1977, while standing at a Manhattan street corner, I saw yellow Checkers with "Drivers Wanted" signs. I called and was told to go and take a test. It was the most difficult test-- (laughter)--I have ever taken in my life. (Laughter) There was a series of questions, mainly about directions. One asked: "How do you get from the Waldorf Astoria to the United Nations?" (Laughter) I had no idea where these places were, much less how to get from one to another. (Laughter) I probably checked the box that said "Cross the Hudson River to New Jersey and take the Turnpike south." (Laughter) I may have answered all the questions wrong. (Laughter) At the end, I showed the test to the examiner. While waiting for the verdict, my heart was pumping faster and faster. My rating officer--(laughter)--glanced at the piece of paper, and he looked at me from head to toe, again, and again. Finally, he said: "You passed!" (Laughter)


Thank you all so much. It's quite an honor and quite a pleasure to be with you tonight. I'd like to salute the organizers of the evening for the way they structured your program, particularly the healthy length of the cocktail hour [laughter]; they have provided me with Mark Twain's definition of the perfect audience, which he said was intelligent, informed, inquisitive, and drunk [laughter]. A great way to start off. Fred and Fran Smith, it's so great to be with you two. Fred you do not have, do not share, one characteristic, with my favorite football coach of all time, Bum Phillips. Bum Phillips said that he took his wife everywhere because she was too ugly to kiss goodbye [laughter]. But Fran is quite lovely, and such an important contributor as we are reminded in her own right.


We've just had an academic event in the Daniels family. The eldest of our four daughters just graduated last Sunday from a fine liberal arts school in Ohio with high honors. Made Dad proud. Meagan did however, somewhat to my regret, as too many kids I think do these days, flit from major to major. She changed midstream from philosophy to geography, so she graduated knowing where she was, but not why [laughter]. And I miss those dinner table conversations before the change, those intriguing metaphysical speculations she and I had a brief opportunity to engage in - with questions like, 'If James Carville and Geraldo Rivera were both drowning, and you could only save one [laughter], would you read the paper, or eat lunch [laughter and applause]?'


I do get to hang out in the office I'm going to talk about tonight, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs -- OIRA -- in OMB, where we have new leadership I'm going to brag about and a very, very learned and academically talented group, many of them of course proficient in, in narrow technical specialties. This leads to some quirks, of course, as two of our OIRA statisticians I discovered went duck hunting last weekend -- with strange results. Not much action all day long. Finally, late in the day, one lonely duck flew over; the first guy leaps up, fires away, missed three feet high. Next guy jumps up, boom, three feet low. They high-fived, "We got him!" [laughter]


We work in the realm there of cost benefit analysis, a strangely controversial thing from time to time to time. We have to, I think, slowly, gradually, methodically, put it back in its rightful place, its commonsense place in the making of public policy. We need to remind people, that cost benefit analysis is part of everyday life. Perhaps you've heard of the couple out dining one evening, when a lovely, much younger lady passed by the table and visibly winked at the husband. His wife, not missing a thing, said, "Who was that?" After some hemming and hawing, he finally confesses: it's his mistress. She said, "That's it! I always feared and suspected. It's over, I want a divorce." "Now dear, not so fast. You [do] realize if that happens, no more diamonds on your birthday, fewer of those shopping trips to New York, what about the country club charge account?" About that time, another couple passed by and she said, "Isn't that your friend Jim from the office?" He said, "Yes." "Well who's that young woman with him?" "Well, that's Jim's mistress." She says, "Aha! Ours is prettier." [laughter]


I think a lot of important and true things have been said about the two men that were here to think about, remember fondly, even reverently tonight. I need to say my two cents about Warren Brookes and Julian Simon, each whom I was able to know, not so well as many of you, but able to know well enough to understand their unique qualities, their unique quirks, their unique importance in our times. These were men of genuine integrity and of a most important sort. These were men of intellectual integrity. They followed the facts. They had great respect for science. They had great respect for the data, which they studied and always tried to base their well-reasoned and very, very persuasive conclusions. I used to work in a data-intensive business for a long, long time, as Jim [Tozzi] mentioned. Our scientists at Eli Lilly used to say, "If we torture the data long enough, it will confess." [laughter] Well, neither Warren Brookes nor Julian Simon tortured data. Rather, they extracted from it, the knowledge they could, to base the sound advice and counsel and conclusions which they shared with the rest of us. I read to prepare for tonight Tom Bray's anthology, called Unconventional Wisdoms: The Best of Warren Brookes. It's fabulous. On every page there is a memory, there is an insight that we forgot. And there's a reminder of how rare was that combination of journalistic and intellectual and personal qualities that he embodied. We're all reminded over and over by our own experience, by all the wisest philosophers, that no person is irreplaceable. Maybe one day it will be true in Warren Brookes' case, but have you noticed, that more than a decade later, we have not replaced him? Maybe one of the fellows who has been honored in his name will rise one day to fill that void.


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