Can Anyone Tell Me Who ‘Brought It’ to ABA TechShow 2012? Anyone? Anyone? Ben Stein Brought It! (mark i unger)April 1, 2012
“Anyone know what this is? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone seen this before? The Laffer Curve. Anyone know what this says?” Ben Stein, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
It’s not often I get to see, hear and meet someone of such iconic old-school flair that laughing yields to the head-nodding usually associated with the thought ‘yes, yes I agree with everything that guy says.” While I can’t say that full and total ‘agreement’ on all is in the cards, I did find myself nodding ‘mucho’ times this past Friday when Über-Actor, Economist, Attorney and Funny/Smart-Guy Ben Stein Keynoted the ABA TechShow 2012.
Stein was introduced by Natalie Kelly as ‘my new best friend’ (after a post-TechShow planning session led to a chance Ben-Stein-Run-In in a department store). Next thing you know, we’re all the better for Natalie Kelly’s luck and Stein’s graciousness.
Stein started out with a few jokes (email me if you want the one about the Rabbi, Priest and Trial Lawyer), to loosen up and to loosen us up, repeatedly citing Canada, to the delight of ‘Tech-Showing’ Canadians and co-referencing, for some reason, Jenna Jameson.
“I’m happy to be here, but I did hear that the choice was between me and Jenna Jameson. They chose me but I’m sure she knows a lot too.”
He did start and finish with prepared remarks about the serious nature of the state of practicing law and the grave need for same—
“The law has always been assumed to be a vital national institution.
“”People should know at the earliest part of their lives what their rights are.”
“[Yet] There’s a huge obstacle…it’s expensive.”
“Unless a person can get access to a lawyer, they’re in danger of losing access to their rights.
“There will be a lot less law-breaking (bad for you guys), the more people know about their rights”
Some such quips which might have been flying off my tweeting digits were -
“The life of law…is not logical experience.”
“Life is a game. Unfortunately it always has the same outcome”
It’s my hope that in the future that the law will be taught in community colleges, night schools… and maybe even law schools.”
“The C in C-level work stands for Chronic”
“The labor force (sad to say I include my son in this group) just doesn’t want to work”
“Its’ not a job to live in Beverly Hills and paint model warriors while living with my wife’s manicurist”
“I’ve never had a manicure in Canada”
“Canada, doing ok? Yeah, doing ok…we’re jealous…but we do have Jenna Jameson…but come to think of it, she might be from Canada.”
He continued off-script with a barrage of stories and cocktail party banter-chatter that made all of us both grateful for the experience and yet wishing we could invite him over on a monthly if not weekly basis. His Java-induced riffs (he had 2 cups of Starbucks on the podium) included such notables as –
“I co-hosted “America’s Most Smartest Model. We took 16k people who called themselves models and asked them Questions. None of them could do it. When we asked them what was the official language of Australia, every single one said “Australian”.
After noting that he “Learned one thing while a speechwriter for Nixon — people want one thing after you start a speech…they want you to finish.
And ‘Finish’ he did, as his points continued anecdotally to demonstrate the fact that many of the people he was encountering didn’t have the knowledge or ability to solve many of the problems our society was now encountering, ‘paraphrastically’ stating –
‘We have a very chronic shortage of knowledge…We don’t know how to solve the many problems…education, unemployment, inadequate access to medical care that we now face.’
“We’ve got to do that…or we’re going to be eaten alive…I’m sure it’s better in Canada…”
“I’ve lived by many famous people. I live close to Barbara Streisand whose voice is like ‘buttah’; and my house is smaller than the shed she keeps her tools in.”
“But the real stars are soldiers, public defenders, prosecutors, Judges’, people who have children with autism, cops, men/women injured in the wars — they keep coming back…from these people the solutions will come…”
From this he concluded with a story from his boyhood, when he went to hear John F. Kennedy speak:
“When I was a boy…I took the bus…in the snow to watch Kennedy’s inauguration…I heard him say some words that apply to lawyers and everyone –
“We all ask G-d to bless this great country…Go to work for this great county…”
Stein finished with “But here on earth G-d’s work is our work. Let’s go for it!”
Indeed, It’s not often I get to see, hear and meet someone of such iconic old-school flair…with such new and re-emerging importance. I think I am better for it. I think everyone in the audience was as well. Thank you Ben Stein.
mark i unger (@miunger)
(photo by antony ng)