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At times of national crisis like this, it must be hard to be a professional comedian, especially one with a nightly show and millions of viewers. Luckily, Jay Leno is a class act who performed a courageous act at the start of last night’s show. He came out on stage and did what every smart comedian knows never to do: He ruined his own show’s chance at hilarity and laughter by starting on a hugely down note by referencing the tragedy. Yes, after all of the applause and high-fiving and music that is the start of “The Tonight Show,” he then started his monologue by referencing the events at Virginia Tech, and expressed how no words could really capture or show enough respect to those suffering the pain of the dorm shootings there.

It showed how classy he really is. A pall was cast over the monologue and the crowd, and rightfully so. There’s just no way to laugh or joke about that. He then went on with his show, receiving muffled laughter through most of the first part as he worked like a pro to lift the energy in the room. He worked hard for his money and by the end, respect had been paid and a few laughs had even been had.

When death or destruction get our national attention, most entertainers know how to close their act with a reflective reference or moment of silence. I don’t doubt the sincerity of such tributes, but Jay graciously gave the only thing he had at this terrible time: the first and most important words of his show and the momentum he forfeited. It was truly respectful.

There’s also a commentary by Leno that’s making the rounds on email, and I’ve received it several times today. It’s inspiring. It’s encouraging. It’s insightful. The only problem is, it’s not from Jay!

It is a powerful thought, but it actually comes from Craig R. Smith at WorldNetDaily.com from Thanksgiving, 2006. The last line actually did come from Leno…back on Thanksgiving of 2005! Still, the piece is still moving and relevant today. Here are some excerpts:

“The other day I …came across…the Newseek poll alleging that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is headed and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the president. In essence 2/3s of the citizenry just ain’t happy and want a change. So being the knuckle dragger I am, I started thinking, ”What we are so unhappy about?”… Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter? Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job? Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?… Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state?…

Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home…

Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes, an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss….

How about the complete religious, social, and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world?…

Think about it… are you upset at the President because he actually caused you personal pain OR is it because the “Media” told you he was failing to kiss your sorry ungrateful behind every day. Make no mistake about it. The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have volunteered to serve, and in many cases may have died for your freedom…. We are among the most blessed people on Earth and should thank God several times a day, or at least be thankful and appreciative….

“With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, Are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?” — Jay Leno

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