In this age of declining literacy, as civilization loses its grasp of the classic ancient texts and descends into barbarism, it gives me great pleasure to have been given the opportunity to work with a handful of young minds determined not to lose everything culture has struggled toward. As our universities are fast becoming travesties, scholarship being overrun by vain proctors of "cultural studies," it is fortunate that one of our public institutions still holds dear the roots of our history. I am glad, indeed, that there are still true scholars in the United States.

My charge of four disciples of the lyrical tongue of Akkadian, on the whole, have amassed an impressive vocabulary and facility with the (let us not forget - flowing) language in whose glyphs the monumental Epic of Gilgamesh was set. There have been innumerable translations in English (and its corrupted bastard son modern English), but none, to my ear, have sufficiently captured the music of the work when intoned in its original tongue.

Some quirks in pronunciation, perhaps understandably, will persist despite my own best efforts or those, dare I say, of any tutor. But, in the last analysis, my students' mastery of the language, under my stern direction, has blossomed into a flower of hypnotic beauty. I fully recommend that each of them be allowed to pursue their mission, as it was described to me, of bringing forth this new, perhaps ultimate, translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, in Spanish and, finally, English, with spoken audio accompaniment, on CD-ROM. While I have grave reservations about electronic means of reading literature, this project seems of vital importance.

Although I have been asked not to elaborate upon my mission here to my colleagues or to the press (and believe me when I say I understand that the field of classics is woefully competitive, overrun, as it is, by charlatans), in my closing comments let me just say that, despite my occasional public criticisms of the Republican congress, I am deeply grateful for the DOE, working in collaboration with NEA and MLA, to fund and manage this important project. Indeed, I am tempted to formally retract statements I have made in the past about government funding being spent in disproportionate amounts on national, rather than cultural security. That academia is under siege has been clear for some time, and I am glad that it has become a national priority to defend our heritage. While I understand the need to keep the details of the production of this translation a closely-guarded secret, to prevent some modern "language" poet from beating your team to the publication date with some ghastly new attempt to bring new light to the racial and sexual "issues" in the original.

Unhesitatingly, I declare Gordon Doe, Ed Fluegel, Hope Hearst, and Bruce Springsteen, in the last analysis, to be as proficient in spoken Akkadian tongue as any living scholars, and to be ideally suited for the difficult task that lies before them.