It must’ve seemed like a good idea at the time. In 1987, Christopher Richardson was finishing his undergraduate program at the University of King’s College in Halifax. He was his class’ valedictorian, and as such, he was to deliver an address to his class at their graduation ceremony.
“I wanted it to be a decent speech,” says Richardson, “but my memories…but when I think back on that, it didn’t actually go the way I thought it was going to go.” The speech he gave was a tribute to the Animal House side of university life, an ode to drunken revelry, throwing up, and end-of-adolescence hijinks. At one point in the speech, he even pulled out a bottle of beer that he’d hidden in the podium, which he used in a toast. It might’ve worked at the post-convocation party or some other less formal event, but as a valedictory, his classmates said it was an embarrassing mockery of the ceremony.
He calls it “the worst valedictorian speech in the history of the University of King’s College”, and it was at least bad enough that speeches in the years to follow were subject to review by the university.
“I’m embarrassed by it,” he says. “I’m ashamed of it. The only time I felt good about it was five minutes before I was about to give it.”
It’s now 2012, and with his upcoming 25-year reunion coming, Richardson had decided to use his feelings about his mistake as the inspiration and fuel for his documentary film, titled Regret. He talks about confronting his own feelings of remorse for the speech he gave, interviews a number of people who like him, have one particular moment or decision in their lives that they deeply regret. He also talks to experts about the psychological and neurological bases of regret and looks at they ways people are taking on their regrets — which includes, as one might expect, the internet.
Regret is a work in progress expected to be completed at the end of this year. There’s a trailer for the film, which I’ve included below: