Friday, May 8, 2009

Commence to Commencin'

**Disclaimer Alert** If you are a big fan of all the pomp and circumstance of the traditional ceremony known as "Graduation Commencement," do not read any further. You will probably become irritated and unhappy. You have much better things to do than get angry and write a pissed-off comment to me. Go watch Oprah instead.

This morning I was privileged to watch as Lynnette received her Master's Degree in Counseling. She also received an award for being a standout graduate student in her field (sorry Lynnette - couldn't remember the exact name of the award). Having worked her tiny little butt off for the past two years, she certainly deserved all the accolades she received. However, I personally feel that she and her fellow graduate students deserved something more - a commencement exercise that was deserving of them and all their hard work.

So, in response to my dissatisfaction with the above-mentioned commencement, I would like to leave my thoughts for future commencements, should any higher education muckity-mucks be among my readers.

1. If the event is supposed to start at a certain time, and it doesn't, please inform the audience. Some people have been waiting an hour. Outside. With small children. We need to know if we're waiting for Brad and Angelina to arrive. And to heck with them if we are - the start time was published - are you this lenient for students who arrive late to class? I didn't think so.

2. Just because you're the dean/boss/head honcho of the school, it doesn't mean you have to be the Master of Ceremonies. We know you have lots of diplomas from fancy-schmancy schools, but it's obvious that none of them are degrees in public speaking. Get somebody who can entertain a crowd. I'll bet there's even an alumni who could keep my attention better than your monotone delivery and lame jokes.

3. My bywords for today - remember who you are honoring. Yes, all you faculty members look pretty in your various lovely doctoral robes and silly hats and stoles. But why do you need to parade in at the beginning, while the real honorees, the graduates, are sitting in chairs watching? You've done your thing - sit your butts down wherever you want and stand up with the rest of us when those who earned their degrees parade in. Your time in the sunshine is not today.

4. Today is not the day to award the Distinguished Alumni Award. Have another banquet/ceremony/weenie roast for that. I don't think the graduates care - their main concern today is getting a job and paying off their student loans. They are not inspired by Dr. Whoosis who graduated way back when and has gone on to teach in college and write books and get written up in the Guinness Book of Word Records for most boring speeches. These graduates and their families have probably already been hit up for contributions to the school, now that they are officially alumni. Again - remember who you are honoring. Let Dr. Fancy Pants have his glory day on another day - nobody came to see him today.

5. Speaking of Dr. Commencement Speaker, we don't care to hear fifteen minutes on him, his accomplishments, his family, and his triumph over male pattern baldness. It's already printed on the back of the program - if we want to know about him, we will read it. Guess what - we don't want to read or hear about him - we're here for the graduates. Why not give us twice that time on the graduates? Which graduate ran a marathon/half marathon to raise money for charity AND did all that graduate research and work? Who managed to graduate and hold a full time job? Who raised kids and stayed married and will receive that diploma today? Who spent spring break building homes with Habitat, or fed the homeless, or gave blood? Tell me about those people I came to honor, not some dude I will forget as soon as he sits his long-winded self down.

6. If you insist on having a speaker, find somebody relevant. And interesting. And current. Inspire these graduates with someone who's out in the real world doing something. Get an alumni who graduated in the last five years. Get an alumni who may not have done anything that would be considered significant in the world's eyes, but helped an inner city child learn to read. Get an alumni who's back from Iraq with a story to tell. Find a speaker who will give these graduates twenty minutes of giggles and laughs. These graduates have listened to windbag professors for the past few years - give them a break today.

7. And if you happen to be the speaker, do not think you will inspire them by encouraging them to be like somebody else. Today we were told numerous times to "be like Ralph." I don't know Ralph, so I don't know that I want to be like him. But I do think all those former students waiting to claim their diplomas need to be encouraged to be themselves because of their unique talents and personalities and strengths. Encourage those individual qualities, because these people are going out into this world to share themselves. That's who they need to be like - just who they are.

8. You are an institute of higher learning - please go to the engineering department and have them design a way so that the graduates waiting in line to walk across the stage are not in the sight line of family members who want to see the actual moment of the diploma hand-off and get a picture. This is a precious moment - missed by families who were seated behind the mountains of standing graduates waiting to get in "the line." It wasn't the graduates' fault - they were doing what they were told to do - after a few years of graduate school, their brain cells needed a rest today.

9. Finally, again with the royal procession out for the faculty members. You marched out and left the graduates in their chairs and then dismissed. If your schedule is that hectic that you have to leave early, don't come at all. We won't mind. For the last time - remember who you are honoring. The graduates deserve to leave to applause and hooping and hollering. You are getting paid to sit and watch - so sit and watch.

It was a great day for Lynnette. She probably didn't care about any of the stuff above. I guess I just want the commencement to fit the celebration that each of these men and women deserve. Commencement can be dignified and regal and ceremonial. But it can also be fun and meaningful and personal - just like those graduates for whom the commencement is meant to honor.

1 comment:

emily g said...

Amen, sister! You did a great job of putting my thoughts into words!