Ben Stein’s Last Column-Truth!

Summary of eRumor:

An article said to be the last column for E Online by Ben Stein.

The Truth:

Ben Stein is one of those people that you’d swear has a bionic thyroid.
As an actor, he’s famous for his role as the boring teacher in film “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off”, is a trained economist and lawyer, has won Emmys for his television work, is a novelist, columnist, and popular speaker.
He wrote a column for the website E Online and when he decided to step down from that, his last column about who and what is really important in life became an Internet classic.

The example of the circulated email below is accurate, but incomplete.
For the entire article, CLICK HERE.

updated 05/31/09

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:


Ben Stein’s Last Column…
August 9, 2004
Email of The Week

How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today’s World?

As I begin to write this, I “slug” it, as we writers say, which means I
put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is
“FINAL,” and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this
column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved
writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never
end. It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a
person and the world’s change have overtaken it.

On a small scale, Morton’s [famous restaurant which was often frequented
by Hollywood stars], while better than ever, no longer attracts as many
stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and
definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and
we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid
talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor
in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton’s is not the star galaxy it
once was, though it probably will be again.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood
stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly
people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man
or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in
front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all
look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in
insane luxury really be a star in today’s world, if by a “star” we mean
someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars
are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or
getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they
have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice
people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.

A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his
head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by
a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam
Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world. A
real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a
road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and
killed him.. A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day,
is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a
piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a
station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it
exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl
alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish
weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after
two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and
stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists. We put
couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our

The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand
on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near
the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor
values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that
who is eating at Morton’s is a big subject. There are plenty of other
stars in the American firmament….the policemen and women who go off on
patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive. The
orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible
accidents and prepare them for surgery, the teachers and nurses who
throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children, the kind
men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards. Think of each
and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade
Center as the towers began to collapse.

Now you have my idea of a real hero. We are not responsible for the
operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly

God is real, not a fiction, and when we turn over our lives to Him, he
takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves. In a
word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of
the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him.

I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that
matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it
another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as
Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin–or Martin Mull or Fred
Willard–or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman, or as good a
writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them. But I could
be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good
son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main
task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my
wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister’s help). I cared
for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with
my father as he got sick, went into extremis, into a coma, and then
entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the
soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that
life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my
duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help
others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a