Tomorrow evening my college will celebrate the graduation of over 1000 students. Unfortunately, if history repeats itself only one third of those students will attend the commencement ceremony. According to four of my students who have chosen not to go . . .
Its not a big deal.
Ill celebrate with my friends on my own.
Why should I?
My responses? In order, It is a big deal. Bring your friends. Youre right, some of it is boring, but the part with you in it wont be. You should go, because you can.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2008, almost 28% of Americans had earned a college degree. When I see that statistic, I think of the 72% who had not. Youve done something special that not everyone can achieve. Even those with the heart and mind to do it, often cant because of circumstances beyond their control: financial, medical, emotional. . .
Youve earned the right to walk across that stage and shake the college presidents hand to the sound of thunderous applause. Trust me, it will sound thunderousour venue is notoriously loud.
Everyone whos played a role in your journey has earned the right to watch you too. Your attendance is a thank you to all of them: the family member who took on a second job and/or a second mortgage to help pay tuition, the friend who offered a shoulder during the tough times, the teacher who encouraged you to keep trying.
My colleagues and I will take our seats in metal folding chairs facing the stage and the first thing we will do is look through the program, some of us with pencils in hand, taking immeasurable pride in marking off our students, ready to clap and cheer when they cross the stage. We know what it took for you to get there.
Attending a 90 minute commencement that ends with you flipping your tassel from the right side to the left of an odd, little hat may seem a silly ritual, but it symbolizes much, much more. Commencement celebrates your transformation from student to graduate and all the new opportunities and challenges you will face with your degree in hand. After all, the word commence means to start, to begin. Embrace your new beginning.