‘M*A*S*H’: Alan Alda’s All-Time Favorite Speech Came During Emotional Family Event

by Josh Lanier

M*A*S*H star Alan Alda has given hundreds of speeches in his lifetime. But there are a few thatare etched on to his heart.

He explained why one of these speeches meant so much to him with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution while on a book tour in 2012.

It was the commencement address he gave at one of his daughter’s college graduations. She graduated from Connecticut College in 1980. School officials thought Alan Alda, who was still starring on M*A*S*H, would make for an appropriate speaker. His daughter was OK with it, but she had one request: “Don’t embarrass me.”

“I loved the one I gave my daughter Eve at her college graduation,” Alda said. “It makes me happy when people tell me they were moved by that. It really cheers me up. … I worked even harder writing this book. I didn’t want it to be just a collection of speeches. Although for all I know, it might look that way to some people.”

You can read his full address here.

It’s a beautiful bit of writing, worthy of the man who co-wrote the M*A*S*H finale, which is still considered one of the greatest episodes in TV history. He catered the entire speech to her.

“The day before yesterday you were a baby I was afraid to hold because you seemed so fragile, he said back then. “Yesterday, all I could feel was helplessness when you broke your small, 9-year-old arm. Only this morning you were a teenager. As I get older, the only thing that speeds up is time. But as much as it’s true that time is a thief, time also leaves something in exchange. With time comes experience – and however uncertain you may be about the rest of the world, at least about your own work you will be sure.”

M*A*S*H Star Repeats Feat for Granddaughter

Alan Alda also gave the commencement address during his granddaughter Emilia’s high school graduation in 2011. Alda brimmed with pride as he tried his best not to read out platitudes and the normal pablum of a commencement speech.

Something he said he did when writing his daughter’s commencement address in 1980.

“Most of the people got what I was trying to do,” he told the AJC of the 1980 speech. “I was really talking to all of them. But through her, it felt personal. This is a turning point in their lives. It was really hard not to say all the cliches.”

He tried to do the same thing for his granddaughter.

“The wisdom that’s supposed to come with old age is really better to have when you’re young – because you’re full of energy and you have many more chances to do really dumb things. We want to do dumb things, too, but we need to lie down and rest. Wisdom is wasted on the old. So, arrange to have wisdom now.

“Oldness, on the other hand, is to be avoided at any age, he continued. “When you’re young, you have curiosity, endeavor, candor, skepticism – and you have optimism. You mustn’t lose any of that, no matter how many years go by.

“Most of all, don’t lose the innocence of youth. Stay in that springtime where everything is new.”