Pomp, Circumstance and NO Buts

BobLee
May15/ 2000

What do commencement “exercises” and youth soccer games have in common? Both mean more if you have “blood kin” participating.  Saturday our “blood kin” became an alumna of The Univ of Missouri.  “Rites of passage” serve as universal measurement for one’s “passage” thru Life.  This one went off without a hitch.

Cliches and stereotypes become cliches and stereotypes via endless repetition.  Lives are filled with them.  Each of us insists “I am unique ….. I am special!” but our lives invariably involve situations shared by bazillions of others.  Situations shared not only by current peers but by layers of generations long past.  “Graduating from college” and “riding a two-wheeler” are such universally shared experiences in the American mosaic.

One can feel “herded” by such reality or simply enjoy the situation for what it is to you personally and those loved ones involved.  Our daughter’s formal graduation from college was such a situation.  This description could be yours ….. many of you have “been there – done that”.  Many of you will “be there – do that” in the years to come.  I hope yours was/will be as traditionally meaningful as ours was.

“They” played Pomp & Circumstance as 500+ School of Journalism graduates marched on to the floor of Mizzou Arena.  Each wearing a black robe and black mortarboard.  Deans and dignitaries were similarly bedecked on the stage. 6-8,000 family and friends filled the lower bowl of the arena.

There were opening remarks and a nice “address” by CBS TV commentator Bill Geist (a Mizzou J-school alum).   Geist’s remarks were light-hearted and, yes, did include the traditional admonition to “go forth and do good things”.  His remarks, like John Grisham’s at UNC, were brief (about 15 minutes).

As a CBS employee, I assume Geist is a registered (D) but nothing he said indicated that.  Neither the term “eco” nor the color “green” were mentioned.  He did not recommend that the 500+ graduates boycott Arizona, Rush Limbaugh, or “big oil”.   Missus and I appreciated that and will think positively of Bill Geist whenever his name is mentioned.

NOTE:  Kid had protested our insistence that she participate in this commencement exercise.  She acknowledged giddily afterwards that it was “so cool” and how much she enjoyed it.  Score one for parental insistence on such one-time rituals.

Your child may want to skip his/hers. STAND FIRM!

Your child will likely want to skip his/hers.  Stand firm.

The actual conferring of diplomas involved each graduate walking across the stage as his/her name was called to receive an empty diploma folder.  I was curious how “they” coordinated graduate and correct name.  “They” have done this over 160 times and had a system that worked incredibly well.

Mizzou graduates over 5,000 and each “School” has its own ceremony.  Within each “school” are divisions of emphasis.  Kid’s was Strategic Communications – a fifty-cent term for Advertising / Public Relations.  The graduates were grouped by these divisions, and each carried a 5×7 index card with their name spelled phonetically.  Each graduate handed his/her card to the announcer at the base of the stairs to the stage.

Their name was read and they walked across the stage to shake hands with the Dean and get the empty folder.   I was fascinated by the simple efficiency of that system.  “Academics” being practical.  Go figure!

The actual diplomas are mailed out six weeks later.  This is to insure that any/all balances due on tuition. et al are zeroed out.  As noted ….. the Mizzou folks have been doing this for over 160 years.

When Kid graduated from high school there was a stern announcement against audience “demonstrations” when a student’s name was called.  Here there was no such announcement.  Almost every name received some audience reaction.

Kid’s “blood kin” on hand included, in addition to Missus and I, her two uncles and their families ….. a total of ten.  When the audience reaction thing was well-established, Kid texted us that “silence at the calling of my name would be awkward”.  So we hooted and hollered in our turn but not so much to be inappropriate.  We had not brought an air horn or signs.

The ceremony lasted slightly under two hours with 75% of that the actual “walking across the stage”.  Everyone in attendance seemed to understand that this ceremony was both individual and shared.  Civility was the order of the day other than the individual hoots and hollers.

I like “civility”.  It’s quite an endangered quality in our society.

Kid was not “the first person in her family to graduate from college” by any means.  That she would do so was assumed from birth.  We all did and her young nieces and nephews likely will too.  But that does not cheapen this milestone.

I found profound pleasure in the manifestations of family pride thuout the arena.  Everywhere you looked there were hugs and “we are soooo proud of you’s” being exchanged.   I imagined 100s of such ceremonies across America thru May.  Large universities like Missouri and UNC to small colleges and even community colleges.  Some institutions more famous for their sports teams or the stature of their alumni than others but none of that matters in the moment.  Sharing this rite of passage with your child is “a biggie” regardless of where it takes place.

There have been and will be “other biggies”.  This one had NO buts.  Well done Kid ….. Well done Mizzou.

Did I mention Kid graduated “cum laude”.   That will be important if she gets married and her announcement appears in the NY Times.  That’s a whole other rite of passage “biggie” awaiting our little family.

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