Dear Salon: Just because you’re wicked smaht…

Amy Poehler told students to find people who challenge and inspire you.… (BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)
Amy Poehler told students to find people who challenge and inspire you.… (BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)

Harvard graduated this week, and Harvard Square swarmed with black and crimson caps and gowns. I was delighted to learn that Amy Poehler delivered the Class Day speech to the students and their families on Wednesday, and was especially delighted when I read on Salon (in a piece by pop culture contributor Drew Grant) that Poehler invoked Good Will Hunting in her speech.

So after watching the amusing address online, I must put forth a short but pointed open letter to the editors of Salon, and anyone else would would care listen.

Dear Drew Grant and Salon,

Speaking in an affected Boston accent does not constitute “quoting ‘Good Will Hunting.'”

That said, Poehler’s message that “you can’t do it alone” is certainly one espoused by the film–a missed opportunity by Poehler, to be sure, that she didn’t directly invoke the Damon-Affleck masterwork–but I see direct references to Good Will Hunting everywhere all the time, and saw none here.

Blog Will Hunting

ANYWAY, if you haven’t seen Amy Poehler’s Class Day address, enjoy! Especially the Boston accenty part, because it is pretty funny, even if it’s not a direct reference to an Oscar-winning best original screenplay.

If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. That book will knock you on your ass.

Matt Damon namedrops The People’s History of the United States by local academic Howard Zinn, in the Harvard bar scene of Good Will Hunting.  Damon and Zinn have teamed up for an upcoming History Channel program.

Regarding the inclusion of the reference in the film, Damon has told The Boston Herald about his first exposure to Zinn’s work in fifth grade:

My mother had read me the passages about Columbus, that two years after Columbus discovered America, more than 100,000 Indians were dead. And I wondered, ‘How is this guy so celebrated that we take a day off from school to bask in his greatness?’

There was a whole other side to the story. What Columbus did, coming here, was a big achievement, but there was more to the story. And that was a great lesson to get at an early age.

Damon and Zinn

Fame, fortune, and their name printed in the auspicious MIT Tech!

The problem Professor Lambeau puts on the hallway chalkboard sets off such excitement as to the identity of the mystery mathematician that his next class is overfilled with students eager to learn who the “silent rogue” could be. When I first saw the film, I thought that the joke — “Is it just my imagination or has my class grown considerably?” — was that everyone enrolled in the massive lecture course actually showed up, which never happens in large lectures. Instead, I think the implication is simply that nearly everyone who heard about the Hard Math Problem being solved was eagerly attending in awe; in short, this is a really big deal.

So big a deal in fact, that people are running as fast as they can to get to the lecture hall.

Someone solved the theorem on the hallway chalkboard!!
Someone solved the theorem on the hallway chalkboard!!

Only in repeated viewings did I realize, this quick scene is not of running students late for class, but instead, it depicts the electric excitement on campus that disrupts the normal pedestrian flow, pulling academics into a sprint toward the lecture hall, books and briefcases in hand, to behold who solved the theorem.

Addendum: In this curious eagerness they find companionship.  Could this be the result of “goodwill hunting”?  They look for math but find companionship, but maybe it was companionship they were looking for all along?  Because nerds don’t have friends?