Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek's Mr. Spock) Invokes His Yiddish-Speaking Childhood at Boston University Commencement

Leonard Nimoy, 81, best known as the half-human, half-Vulcan character Mr. Spock on the Star Trek series, delivered the commencement address at Boston University's College of Fine Arts last week.

In the 18-minute speech (click on the video below to see it all,) he travels back in time to his childhood in the Jewish and Italian West End of Boston, relishing stories of his early years of growing up in an ethnic neighborhood where he could tell the nationality by the aromas of cooking wafting through the tenement building.

He speaks freely of his Jewish roots and how proud he was to be "this Jewish kid from a Yiddish-speaking family at a Jesuit school (Boston College, where he was offered a scholarship in an 8-week summer theatre program) being blessed daily with 'Our Fathers' and 'Hail Marys.'

Nimoy gives humorous glimpses of advice that he received from actor Spencer Tracy and from President-to-be John F. Kennedy, whom he picked up at a hotel when Nimoy worked the night shift as a taxi driver to make ends meet.

He tells how he came to the role of Mr. Spock in 1966 and how his status of an alien parallels Nimoy's own role: "My folks came to the United States as immigrants (aliens) and they became citizens. I was born in Boston, a citizen. I went to Hollywood and I became an alien. Spock was the embodiment of the outsider, like the immigrants who surrounded me in my early years."

He ends his address, sprinkled throughout with funny comments and words of advice to the budding artists in the graduating class, with this request: "Please, please, for the sake of our culture, for the sake of mankind, don't create any more reality TV shows. And of course, I cannot leave without saying to you in all sincerity, Live long and prosper." (as he raises his hand in the gesture that the Kohanim make when they bless the congregation.)

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