This is a letter that should come as no surprise to anyone who read last week’s “Reeve to Speak; selection raises doubts” by Jen Dolloff, as the author herself stated “I’m sure many of you will vehemently disagree with me.” Well, rather than be intimidated by what seems like Dolloff’s attempt to say “don’t worry about arguing against me – I already know what you are going to say,” I am in fact going to refute her remarks because I find them deeply offensive.
The one thing Dolloff and I can agree on is that Reeve suffered a terrible accident, and that he, in the words of the author, “has dealt with his trial admirably.” But our similarities end there. While I can in no way claim to be an expert on Reeve’s acting career (with the possible exception of the Superman series), it is clear that he is not only a cultural icon because of his role in the aforementioned movie series, but also an actor who has made quite an impact in his profession.
Williamstown in particular has special ties to Reeve, who, as mentioned in the Record two weeks ago, has been involved with the WTF since he was 15. I myself have seen Reeve and his family in the audience of several WTF plays over the years, demonstrating that he is an actor who truly loves and supports his craft and his colleagues.
In terms of his “victimhood,” Dolloff is simply wrong in this characterization. This “victim” mentality of which Dolloff speaks connotes a person who sits and wallows in self-pity, while doing nothing to help himself. Since his accident, Reeve has been the antithesis of this kind of person. He has worked tirelessly to bring the plight of para- and quadriplegics to the national forefront, lobbying everyone from the medical community to congress to increase funds for traumatic brain injury and spinal cord research.
When my friends and I learned that Reeve was to be our speaker, every person I spoke with was absolutely thrilled at the choice. Reeve will offer us, the Williams class of 1999, a wonderful mix of a dedicated artist and performer, a person who truly stands up and fights for what he believes in, and above all, a portrait of hope which can not be surpassed. Dolloff’s comment that Reeve’s “particular field of endeavor seems to be paralysis” absolutely sickens and embarrasses me as a member of the Williams community. Dolloff should realize that Reeve fully deserves the degree which he is to receive from Williams – every bit as much as the “random standing ovations” which she feels are enough for a person who has overcome obstacles the likes of which Reeve has. It is my sincere hope that Reeve realizes how lucky the Williams community considers itself to be in having such a remarkable person speak at our commencement, and that opinions like Dolloff’s are few and far between.