It has been a tough year in many places in America–from the weather, political histrionics, financial losses, civil unrest, and tragic deaths. We have been throttled by tornadoes, snowstorms, flooding, searing heat, droughts, and icy roads. Political gridlocks have left us less than optimistic about the effectiveness of our government to improve the quality of life and potential of Americans and future generations.
Yet, as we enter commencement season at thousands of higher education institutions around the nation, there is a sense of cautious hope for our collective American futures. As my husband and I, together with other family members, prepare to travel to Vermont, which is apparently just beginning to thaw out from the distinction of accumulating the most snowfall in 2015 in the Continental US, for our daughter’s commencement from Law School, we will be joining a small, but significant number of families who will be traveling to also applaud accomplishments of children, grandchildren, and relatives. Like the other families who will gather to witness these commencements, we will share a sense of pride, relief, and optimism about the contributions these graduates can make to positive social action, to more effective governments, to numerous industries and agencies, and to global communities.
Even though I have attended more higher education commencements than I care to admit, I remember mostly the commencements of Winston-Salem State University and Cheyney University. While the speakers and acknowledgements of my own commencements and those of my siblings have faded from my memory, the looks of elation, hope, and jubilation of the graduates of these two institutions seem to be permanently etched in my brain and my heart.
As I walked down the aisle with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. at one commencement at Cheyney University, I watched the beaming faces of the families of those in attendance. With a little over 250 students graduating, there were over 3,000 parents, family, friends, and well-wishers cheering the graduates on to commencing a new life of opportunities. These family members filled the Historic Quad of Cheyney University and celebrated with the exuberance and intensity seen at joyful family reunions.
As the Honorable Reverend Jesse Jackson walked in the commencement ceremonial march, parents, family members, and significant others thanked him for participating in this significant event in the lives of their loved ones. And, of course, Reverend Jesse Jackson did not disappoint in his graduation address. Moreover, as an added bonus, actor and musician Terrence Howard also participated in the same commencement activities and gave remarks, much to the positive approval of the graduating students and their guests.
This and other such commencements warmed my heart. I understood the sacrifices of money and the hopes for a better life tied to these graduates. My husband and I carry similar hopes and dreams for our daughter, but our sacrifices pale in comparison to those made by first generation parents and families. We believe our daughter’s and significant numbers of other proud graduates’ accomplishments will prepare them to commence or begin to make the world a better place for us all–and it does not get much better than that in America!
So, to all who are graduating, Congratulations on your impressive accomplishments!
Graduates, we need your innovations, your contributions to global sustainability, your fresh insights, team work, and new ideas to strengthen America!