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  • But a pen is a simple thing, isn't it?

  • It doesn't have a battery or a motherboard.

  • It doesn't require a service plan or a satellite orbiting the Earth

  • in order to function.

  • It's never smarter than you are, which I like.

  • (Laughter)

  • And if you were to drop it in water,

  • or any distance higher than your own knee on a hard surface,

  • it would not be destroyed.

  • In fact, purchasing an insurance plan for it

  • would be, well, silly, and slightly ridiculous.

  • Yet, this simple pen has shaped the very world in which we live.

  • It has recorded the discoveries of scientists and inventors.

  • It has charted the course for nearly every explorer

  • who has braved the open ocean or explored the vast terrain.

  • Wars have begun and ended at its wave

  • and the doctrine of nearly every one of the world's religions

  • was inscribed at its tip.

  • It has recorded the genius of composers and artists alike,

  • and more lovers have succumb at its tip than any of Cupid's arrows.

  • (Laughter)

  • You see, more than a pen, this is a vital part of our humanity.

  • It is the facilitator to genius, the strongest weapon in war time,

  • the baton passed from one generation to the next,

  • the needle on the Richter scale of our hearts,

  • and the connection between God and man.

  • Yet, for the first time in history,

  • the value of this amazing tool hangs in the balance.

  • With 41 out of 50 states no longer requiring handwriting

  • to be a fundamental part of their curriculum,

  • like everything else in our culture,

  • we declare its value by what we teach or do not teach our children.

  • Yet I stand before you today not only as an advocate for the pen,

  • but as your advocate as well,

  • for while the hand empowers the pen, the pen empowers the man.

  • So empower yourselves today and write this down.

  • Use this and you will develop not one but three forms of literacy.

  • The first form of literacy is that of historical literacy.

  • You see, we have a vast chronology of handwriting

  • because man has been writing by hand for literally thousands of years.

  • In every culture, time period, and nation has had its own form of handwriting,

  • and they are each as unique as one individual's is to another's.

  • I could regale you with a vast background on each one of these forms,

  • but let me bring things a little closer to home

  • and bring you more quickly up to speed.

  • This is America's first style of penmanship

  • and the forefather of cursive.

  • It is called Spencerian script, created by Platt Rogers Spencer

  • in the middle of the 19th century when he was only 13 years old.

  • Not only did this boy create

  • one of the most dynamic forms of penmanship known to man

  • he also had a beautiful philosophy and even theology behind his handwriting.

  • You see, he believed that God, being the originator of all beauty,

  • had instilled his beauty in nature,

  • so if Spencer could take his cues from nature,

  • then he would have the beauty of God in his own handwriting.

  • Not bad for a 13 year old.

  • So, this is one of the pieces that I did,

  • not only as a nod to Spencerian script

  • but to show the place from which it was inspired.

  • He was inspired by the flowing lines he saw in the streams by his house,

  • the gentle lean of the wheat blowing in the wind,

  • and the rolling clouds over mountain peaks.

  • Spencer's form was not only genius in its appearance,

  • but it was a thing of brilliance in function as well.

  • You see, today,

  • the way that we typically write is we plant our palm on the side of our hand,

  • and we use a whole variety of horrible pen grips,

  • and we write using mainly finger movement.

  • This puts stress on all of the smallest joints, muscles, tendons,

  • and in the end, it results in what we know as writer's cramp.

  • Back in the day, Platt Rogers Spencer devised

  • that his handwriting should be written with the knuckles up towards the ceiling

  • using muscular movement, which is movement at the wrist,

  • and whole arm movement for those larger graceful curves,

  • so you could write all day long and never get writer's cramp.

  • There were others that followed in Spencer's pen-strokes.

  • This is Louis Madarasz,

  • regarded as the greatest ornamental penman who ever lived.

  • He built on Spencer's fundamental form

  • to bring us some of the most dynamic scripts known to man,

  • one of which is said to have inspired the Coca-Cola logo,

  • one of the longest standing, most dynamic logos of all times.

  • Or this man, F.B. Courtney, the pen wizard,

  • so-called because of the magic created at the tip of his pen.

  • It was said that Courtney, whenever he taught,

  • would go into a room and fill a chalkboard with museum-worthy flourishing and script,

  • and then, at the end, he would take a piece of chalk in each hand,

  • stand at the chalkboard and sign his name simultaneously in opposite directions

  • as if conducting an orchestra.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now I know what you're saying, "Jake, this is all well and good,

  • but I'm afraid my penmanship has sailed and sunk."

  • (Laughter)

  • "I write in chicken scratch."

  • "I'm sorry, I was just not born

  • with the natural facilities that these masters were."

  • Well, let me encourage you a bit,

  • and possibly make you feel worse about yourself.

  • (Laughter)

  • This is J.C. Ryan, the handless penman.

  • He was a man born without hands who made his living in penmanship.

  • Any more excuses?

  • (Laughter)

  • You see, these are the heroes of our past,

  • these are the builders of our handwriting heritage.

  • Newton said we only reach great heights "by standing on the shoulders of giants".

  • I tell you that my hand only moves so gracefully

  • because I have rehearsed the strokes of masters.

  • Use this and you will develop intellectual literacy.

  • In college, I actually got my degree in psychology,

  • largely because I did not think I was going to make it as an artist.

  • Of course, I practiced my artwork and my handwriting incessantly,

  • so much so that I gained a reputation among my professors

  • who were handing around my essay tests

  • saying that they looked like the Declaration of Independence.

  • (Laughter)

  • Well, in one psychology course,

  • which was Cognitive Psychology,

  • we actually studied how handwriting helped develop the brain.

  • I took copious and beautiful notes.

  • (Laughter)

  • And what we discovered when we studied this

  • was that during the different tactile movements of doing handwriting,

  • the brain is actually engaged in more areas,

  • and the information is engrained into the brain.

  • The same was not found to be true with typing, however,

  • which does not involve the same type of differential tactile movement.

  • Handwriting was also found to be incredibly helpful in small children

  • who were learning to read, because by forming the individual letters,

  • they had a deeper understanding of the anatomy of each one

  • and were therefore able to recognize it when it came time to read it on the page.

  • Moreover, cursive was found to be even more beneficial to the brain.

  • Researchers and scientists have done brain scans on children learning cursive

  • and found that the different parts of the brain which are engaged

  • are similar to those adults typically use when writing and doing higher reasoning.

  • The screen went blank when the kids were typing

  • because it didn't involve the same type of tactile movement.

  • So, let me point out the fact

  • that not only has technology brought us this amazing information,

  • but in this case, it stands as the champion of handwriting.

  • One thing we need to stop doing

  • is putting technology and handwriting in opposing corners.

  • People often assume that with my old ideals and ancient art forms

  • that I am somehow stuck in the past, and therefore, I must hate technology.

  • Let me assure you, I do not hate technology.

  • (Laughter)

  • In fact, I am a proud Apple user.

  • I have an iPhone, iPad, iMac, Macbook.

  • I have my own website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts

  • and I drive around in a horseless carriage like everybody else,

  • so don't try and tell me that I'm stuck in the past.

  • (Laughter)

  • Beyond acknowledging the fact that we are in a modern age,

  • I do believe that typing is a very fundamental tool

  • that children do need to learn.

  • However, they should not be learning it at the expense of handwriting.

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you.

  • You see, schools are leaning all the time more and more so on technology

  • to help move kids down the conveyor belt of the educational system,

  • but what we need to do is be a good steward of both

  • and listen to what our technology is telling us

  • and pick up the pen and keep writing.

  • You see it is not technology that is the direct enemy of the pen,

  • it is our dependency on technology.

  • The greater we grow our dependency on technology,

  • what we may soon find is that we've created

  • the most technologically advanced way of creating illiteracy.

  • Use this and you will develop creative literacy.

  • The handwriting is such a personal act

  • and is it any wonder when you can actually use

  • your own signature interchangeably with your finger print.

  • You see writing captures more than our thoughts,

  • it records our emotions; it even captures our personalities down on paper.

  • We all know the power of a handwritten note.

  • Ever since I was a kid, one of the first people who inspired me

  • to start working on my handwriting was my own mother.

  • She used to pack my lunch for me every day in school,

  • and she would always put a napkin in there with her beautiful handwriting on it.

  • My whole day could fall apart, I could fail the spelling test,

  • be picked last for kickball, and go down into a lunchroom

  • with a lunch lady screaming her way out of a hair net at wayward children

  • who were throwing milk cartons through the air like hand grenades on D-Day

  • (Laughter)

  • and I would open up my lunch box and I would see that note

  • on top of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bag full of Cheetos

  • and the whole world went still.

  • Some things just stick with you.

  • Thanks, Mom.

  • And so, this love for the pen was nurtured so early in life.

  • When I picked up my first calligraphy pen, I was disappointed at its quality

  • and disappointed at the general lack of available tools on the market.

  • So I took it upon myself to learn how to create my own pen.

  • I taught myself how to use the lathe

  • and I started shaping a whole wide variety of exotic hardwoods,

  • pulling out their grain,

  • contouring their shape perfectly to fit my pen grip.

  • I would also add little bits of ornament,

  • dynamic shape to give flare and romance to them.

  • Then, I would fit my own nibs,

  • I would mix my own ink,

  • until finally I was able to put pen to paper.

  • I have since created hundreds of pens for penmen around the world

  • so that the art of the pen might thrive.

  • Since I made my first calligraphy pen almost eight years ago,

  • it has marked the greatest growth spurt for me as an artist.

  • In 2011, I became the youngest person

  • to ever achieve the title of Master Penman,

  • and I stand with only 11 others in the world.

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

  • As the last requirement to become a Master Penman,

  • you have to make your own certificate.

  • Of course, right?

  • (Laughter)

  • So here it is, this is my certificate executed on calf skin vellum.

  • It has six styles of calligraphy, two types of gold leaf gilding,

  • painting, illustration, and beyond that,

  • I carved the pen that I wrote it with and the frame it went in out of mahogany.

  • (Applause)

  • Now, those last two were not required

  • as part of the program,

  • but I wanted them to be expressed in the context of my certificate,

  • and I don't get out much, so...

  • (Laughter)

  • Once I learned the discipline of this fine art,

  • I started incorporating it into the other mediums that I had done before,

  • finding that the written word gave such powerful life to my artwork.

  • I learned the disciplines of flourishing and the rules which govern its script

  • and started changing the whole world around me.

  • In one instance, at least, I created this two dimensional design

  • and got the opportunity to translate it through wood carving

  • into this four-foot slab of mahogany, entirely carved by hand.

  • Or there's this piece.

  • This is done with one of my handmade calligraphy pens.

  • It's a portrait of Christ that is done in one continuous stroke.

  • It's a spiral which starts at the center of his nose,

  • it goes outward around itself 175 times.

  • The line contours his face

  • and gets thicker and thinner to create shadow and highlight

  • and then, in the end, evens out to a perfect oval.

  • So you see, more than a form of writing or communication,

  • this is an art form for me.

  • As an artist, and as a master penman,