It's graduation day, which is why I'm up at my usual too early hour sipping coffee and trying to get my aging limbs to move in a coordinated fashion.
When the President told us, at lunch last year, that she'd decided to split the graduation ceremonies into morning and afternoon sessions, she left it up to us to choose which we'd go to, although it became clear in the discussion that she hoped that many of us would decide to go to both. And we did. After all, we're there mostly for visual effect. You want to have a lot of people on the stage.
The ceremonies are streamed now, which is a little weird. You look at the jumbotron in the center of the arena and catch a glimpse of yourself in the funny clothes and wonder, "What in the world am I doing here?"
But I quite like it, to tell the truth. Yes, there's a lot of standing around and waiting and we all feel a little odd in our medieval outfits, but then you sit there watching the graduates come across the stage and imagine what it's like for each of them and for their families and you get to feel a bit proud for having had a hand in making it happen.
Between the two graduation ceremonies in the arena, there's the doctoral hooding ceremony. This is a far more solemn and serious affair. The arena is loud and there are thousands of people there and the atmosphere is giddy and a bit raucous. But in the concert hall, with the couple of dozen people who are receiving the symbols of their doctorates it's much more somber. Celebratory, to be sure, but with the acknowledgment and understanding of the sacrifices that have been made for these people to get this far -- and anticipation for what they will hope to accomplish in the next stage of their lives.
For so many of the people that I'll be around today, this day marks a passage from one stage to another. A day to be remembered. For me, it's just another episode of filling my role. I have no responsibilities but to sit there on the stage in my funny clothes, looking academic. I'm part of the decoration, part of the shrubbery. But that helps to set the tone, and I'm happy to be there.