Graduate, v. or n.

by Yule Heibel on May 26, 2007

Jay Parini, in his article The Model Graduation Speaker, writes that he tends to cry at weddings and graduations, “though rarely at funerals.” Well, I graduated into some BS today, and what he wrote very nearly made me cry, even as it worked to repair reality. Especially that last bit:

For the most part, I think it’s good when scholars — or “public intellectuals” — give the graduation speech. Scholarship and the acquisition of knowledge are the point of academic villages. We should celebrate those who have lived their lives accordingly, putting aside the pursuit of great wealth or power. A graduation speaker is, implicitly, a model for the students to emulate, admire, acknowledge as good. If the speaker has done nothing but accumulate wealth at the expense of the community or become a “personality” in the media, that is not enough. I always find it discouraging when well-known people who mirror the worst values in society are given honorary degrees. There should be honor in honorary degrees. And the person chosen to speak to graduates should understand that he or she has 15 or 20 minutes to talk frankly about life as he or she sees it, asking important questions. What are lessons in the art of life? What does the effort to acquire an education mean? What obligations and responsibilities come with that amazing privilege — one that so many in the audience will take for granted, but which most people in the world will never experience?

Oh well. It’s not something that’s anything some people I’ve encountered will ever understand.

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