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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Speak for Yourself

My dad went to school in the 1920s and 30s, when the textbooks were more "classical" than they are today. One series, the McGuffey Readers, dated back to the 19th century. By the time I came along, elementary schooling in California had devolved, and often my Dad used lines that I wouldn't learn until college (if then).

One of these would come up when an opinion was asserted with which Dad disagreed. "Strawberry ice cream is the best!" one of us might claim. "Speak for yourself, John Alden," Dad would reply. "I like chocolate."

Who the heck was John Alden?

Years later I learned that this referred to a legend of the pilgrims, propagated in Longfellow's poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish. It seems Standish and Alden were roommates in the Plymouth Colony, and both were in love with the only available girl, Priscilla Mullens. Somehow Standish convinced Alden to go to Priscilla and propose marriage to her on Standish's behalf!

Once Alden presented Standish's case, the bold girl replied: "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?" Ultimately, he did, and they married. Priscilla's reply has come down to us in the more popular form, "Speak for yourself, John Alden."

All of this is a round about way to say, speak for yourself. Don't let others speak for you. And don't share others' opinions (unless that's your job). Speak for yourself, and let others do the same.

You'll be happier.

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