Having just returned from our daughter’s graduation (she received a JD & MBA from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA), I’m ready to don a summer dress and go to more.
While watching the families and friends from across the nation and many foreign countries, beaming with pride, showering their loved ones with flowers, balloons, hugs and kisses, I casually mentioned to my husband and some of our daughter’s friends that I could become a professional graduation-goer. Send me there, and I’ll sit through all the names being read, clap, cheer, and cry for your loved one.
Ok, kidding aside, I do love the traditions of academia. I love seeing the faculty wearing their colorful robes, hats, and hoods representing the many disciplines. I love the parade of banners. I love the music (in New Orleans, it was jazz. Even Pomp & Circumstance was played by a jazz band), I love standing for the national anthem, and singing along, despite being way off key, and even pretending to know a school’s alma mater song.
The graduates represent such hope and promise for the future that’s now in their well-educated heads, hands, and hearts. At Tulane, each school has its own smaller ceremony- -we attended business on Friday and law on Saturday. At the unified graduation, for all schools, undergraduate and graduate, we sat sky high in the Superdome. Apple’s Tim Cook gave the commencement address and charged the graduates with solving climate change. Congressman John Lewis was among those receiving honorary degrees. The school president introduced him as “the essence of an American hero.” After the hood was draped on his shoulders, the crowd stood in ovation.
Then there’s Robert F. Smith. While delivering the commencement address at Morehouse College, the billionaire technology investor announced he would be paying off all the graduates’ student debt, amounting to about $40 million. The nearly 400 graduates of the historically black college in Atlanta couldn’t believe what they heard, then erupted in cheers.
Smith, who’d already pledged $1.5 million to the school, asked the recipients to “pay it forward.”
Giving these students opportunities to pursue their passions without debt can only help our nation solve so many problems. Let’s continue to seek equity in education. Imagine what the future can look like.