Friday, May 30, 2008

pomp and circumstance

Today marked the official end of the academic year. The finale, of course, was graduation.

I served as a faculty marshal in my discipline. Although they are long and often boring, I love graduation ceremonies. Perhaps that is because of my own experiences with graduation.

Each successive ceremony that I've attended as a graduate has been filled with emotions – pride, joy, sadness, that fleeting feeling of a life that is changing in ways I cannot begin to comprehend at the moment. My eyes fill with tears as I feel those same feelings for those students of mine who have achieved this major milestone in their lives.

That moment after all the students have come up one by one and walked across the stage and gone back to their seats...the moment when the senior VP, holding the mace, asks all graduates to rise...the moment when she announces that by the power vested in her, she confers upon them the degree...the moment when the students break out in cheers, many tossing their hats into the air...

You don't get many moments like that in life. So take them when you find them.

Some would say hey, it's 'just' a junior college degree at an institution serving very low to moderate income working class people. But to me, it's the first step, the first half of a bachelor's degree, and they are on their way to the next hurdle.

We serve students who have indeed persevered against some serious personal challenges on their way to their ultimate goals. I am so very proud of them all.

We have the distinction of holding our graduation ceremonies at the theatre at Madison Square Garden. And we had an unscheduled surprise speaker this year: Senator Chuck Schumer.

All told, I'm so glad I attended the ceremonies. And I didn't even do it to get 'credit' for service to the college. That's just a perk for spending the day doing something I loved.

A few of my colleagues and I ended the day (the ceremony runs from about 11 to about 3, and we are supposed to arrive about 9 am) getting a bite to eat at a restaurant around the corner from MSG (I had the Tir na nOg Cheeseburger, of course). While I dislike larger groups, there were only five of us, so I was comfortable and had a great time.

So the day was inspirational, the weather was gorgeous, the sky was blue, and all was right with the world.

Pomp and circumstance -- it's more than just what we hear at graduation, and I had no idea there were actual lyrics until I found this:

Land of hope and glory
Mother of the free,
How shall we extol thee,
Who are born of thee.
Wider still and wider
Shall thy bounds be set,
God who made thee mighty
Make thee mightier yet
God who made thee mighty
Make thee mightier yet

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