It's so interesting to watch Las Vegas grow and change from its early days of glamour, organized crime, Bugsy Siegel and building casinos in the desert. I was really struck by how much construction there is going on, and I remembered how back in the 1990s the city was trying to reposition itself as a family-friendly tourist destination. Apparently that philosophy has been abandoned in favor of a "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" philosophy.
Speaking of reasons to go to Vegas, I'm not a gambler, and I only sort of understand the thrill of it all, but it was heartbreaking to see people who I knew would be gambling into all hours of the night -- just placing that one more bet. It's the height of instant gratification, that wanting money and wanting it NOW. Knowing, no doubt, that all the odds are in favor of the house, that that's how casinos make their money. Knowing that there is no such thing as a free lunch. It is scary to see that old adage, hope springs eternal, play itself out at a casino.
But I am also struck by the energy. Being there is almost like being on stage -- so much life, so many diversions from our normal lives. I certainly get the draw.
This weekend I'm drawn to Williams College, where I'll give the commencement address. It's really an honor for me to do this. My sister spent her junior year there, and my brother-in-law went there.
I've been working on my speech for weeks! It's a big challenge, and I'm both excited and intimidated. I've heard people giving canned speeches, which really sound awful, and worse, those kinds of speeches are really disrespectful of the young men and women who have put in four years of hard work and are about to venture out into the world.
Of course, I'll be tinkering and rewriting the speech up until moments before I give it. I'm planning to outline seven lessons for the class of '07. But that's all I can tell you for now.
I'll post the speech online and share it with all of you on Monday. And I'm sure I'll have thought of changes even after I've given it, but I promise you it will be the version I deliver Sunday!