What a fantastic overview of life Mr. Charles Kettering had. Indeed, the future is a good place to be, so why not start living there now?
I just returned from a trip to Kettering, Ohio my hometown and the home of Fairmont High School. About 2,000 students attend this public school and 30% of them are in the field of the arts. For those of you who are not familiar with this Dayton suburb, it was named after Charles F. Kettering, who invented the automatic starter for your car. I never met him as he died when I was a year old. No matter. I was born and raised in Kettering. I did not find out about his relationship with the automatic starter until I was taking my drivers test. As a teenager it did not matter to me who he was I just wanted to pass parallel parking.
My folks still live in Kettering. When I visit, I borrow my Dads VW. The license plate says, BRTZ DAD. He is my biggest if not proudest fan and me his. The trees lining Ackerman Blvd. are much taller than I remember, and the walk from Lovetta Drive, where I grew up, to Oakview Elementary isnt nearly as far as I recall from when I trudged from school to home through the freezing cold and snow back in 1965.
As I drove by our old house the other day, it seemed smaller than I recollected it as a child. The people who now live there turned the garage that my dad converted into a den back into a garage again. And the Little Leaf Linden tree that we planted when I was 10 now towers over the roof of the two-story, upper-middle class red brick that we called home.
I dont mean to get all mushy and sentimental. I knew I could never go home again when I returned for Thanksgiving in the fall of 1976 after my first quarter at Ohio University. The grass was turning a burnt-yellow and the leaves had fallen. Autumn was well into the first act and I cried as I drove around the block, knowing it would never be the same again. In three short months, my life was no longer my parents responsibility it was mine, and I was taking my job seriously for it meant my future.
When I was a senior in high school, I was squad leader of the 200-member, all-brass marching band, and the president of the NFL the National Forensic League. The NFL is the leading honor society in the field of speech and debate. For 80 years, its motto is, Training Youth for Leadership. My point? It is in this particular area that I found my niche. I was able to jump-start my career in voice acting by starting young, honing my skills and learning what it meant to be part of a team where what you do individually matters.
I participated in individual events, as opposed to debate. I left debate for future lawyers and politicians I was an artist. I found myself immersed in telling stories, mostly by James Thurber and Ray Bradbury. While my brothers were bringing home Little League trophies, I brought home blue ribbons in humorous interpretation and after-dinner speaking. This was fodder (raw material, as for artistic creation) for the future. Our team sacrificed our Friday nights in order to catch the 4:00 am bus ride to Urbana a good three hours away. As long as I was able to sit next to P.W., three hours was not long enough as far as I was concerned, but I am sidetracking.
As an artist-in-the-making, I was a dedicated voice-thespian. No time for romance, my heart was in my vocal chords as I traveled the tri-state area. More fodder for the future, I took classes in speech, in oral interpretation, in childrens literature and in phonetics. It all paid off as I laid each brick on the path towards a future I did not know lay in front of me.
Truthfully, like most young people, I lived for the day, and an occasional Saturday night, when the OU speech team won and we would go off to celebrate at the now defunct disco, The Deck. Dancing to the Bee Gees and Donna Summer all night long, we would stay until the bars closed, which was so much fun. I considered all of this fun special training.
Having fun is important. If you take everything seriously, serious everything will be I promise. I make a point of having fun in my life, and in my career, and you should too. Young or old, having insouciance (lack of concern) can make all the difference in getting the job you want. Producers and directors have a sense when you have to have it versus you can take it or leave it. Love what you do, have fun with it and see if you dont feel lighter, happier and maybe even achieve your goals easier, especially in voice-acting, where the competition is fierce, and the voices are many.
Twenty-nine years has gone by since I graduated from Fairmont West. I transferred from OU to UCLA where I finished my studies and received a Bachelor of Science Theater major. While at UCLA I joined up with my long-time mentor, Daws Butler (voice of Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, etc.). I began to audition and was hired for my first professional job in 1981. I never looked back until now, that is.
For years, I have had the burning desire to thank the people who helped me make it. My speech teacher, the president of the radio station where I got my first break, the scholarship committee at Ohio University who selected me as a recipient of the Mannaseh-Cutler scholarship two years in a row, and my advisor at OU who encouraged me to make my dreams come true.
The purpose of this recent trip to Kettering was to do a benefit performance of my one-woman show, My Life As a 10-Year-Old Boy. I am very proud to announce the recently established Nancy Cartwright Endowment for the Arts fund at Ohio University. All the proceeds from the shows went into this fund, and any art student attending Kettering Fairmont is eligible.
I do not mean to toot my horn here, honestly, I am just ecstatic about being able to give something back to my community. It is so important to be able to give back. In fact, you will find it part of the fun of achieving success, whether or not you are just beginning your career, or you have been at it professionally for over 24 years like me. Just find your niche, and get involved the rewards will come back to you tenfold.
While in Ohio, I performed two benefit shows, one at Kettering Fairmont High School, and another at Ohio University. They were a total blast! I had so much fun as I walked down memory lane. I knew my family and friends were sitting out there in the audience remembering along with me; I do not know that I have ever felt more joy in sharing my life as a 10-year-old boy than I did during those two performances.
Automatic starter or not, I would like to think that Charles F. Kettering and I have a little more in common than the name of my hometown. Therefore, I repeat what he said, because if you start laying your bricks today, tomorrow the path will be there to walk. My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.
I will see you all there!
Nancy Cartwright is best known as the voice of spiky-headed Bart Simpson on The Simpsons. She has voiced dozens of cartoon characters in her career that has spanned more than 20 years. Currently she can be heard as the voice of Rufus the Naked Mole Rat on Disneys Kim Possible and Chuckie on Rugrats and All Grown Up. To learn more about Nancys career, listen to her new audio book My Life as a 10-year-old Boy.