A Perfect World

Four years ago my daughter Bea and I flew down to California to scout out Stanford. Last week the whole family flew in for her graduation.

She showed us the hotspots around town.

For sentimental reasons we brunched at an Anatolian restaurant. My Turkish ravioli with garlic yogurt sauce was a hit.


Amidst the chaos we found a shady spot for a game of Pandemic.

And saved the World.

We dined with the parents of Bea’s friend, Ben Bravo, who was gifted with the perfect name for a superhero or the hero of a romance novel!  After four years of hearing such good things about them, it was great to meet all the Bravos.


Then we partook of a time-honored graduation ritual…in which the graduate’s family arrives with empty suitcases and packs up her stuff while she flits in and out, saying hello to her friends’ visiting parents, and farewell to her friends.


Saturday morning was the Baccalaureate.

We heard a Buddhist Singing Bowl, a prayer of the Ojibway Nation, a reflection by Bea’s friend Zainub, Taiko drumming, and other benedictions, a celebration of spiritual diversity and mutual respect.

Bea graduated with honors, with distinction, and awards, including The Amy Levy and a Fulbright.  She had her village. Bea was…blessed is the only word that will do…to have been mentored by such remarkable professors as Dr. Gabriella Safran…


…and Dr. Allyson Hobbs, whose hearts are as large as their intellects, and who kindly took my chick under their wing. Their encouragement made all the difference.

Bea and her brother are very close, besties, village peeps.  Eli traveled from Mexico to help her pack up, to celebrate and support her, even though he had to fly out at dawn on Sunday, missing the Commencement.

But Bea’s besties Denise and Marcus remained to cheer her on.

An airplane circling overhead trailed a message. Like many universities, Stanford is accused of sweeping those stories–and victims–under the rug, or throwing them under a bus, especially when the perpetrators are college athletes.

At Stanford commencement opens with a procession known as The Wacky Walk.

As individuals…

…or in groups…

…students parade around the stadium free to express themselves as they choose.


I liked the funeral procession for the fallen GPA, with a trumpet playing Taps.


Some protested after a Stanford swimmer was slapped on the wrist for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Had two students not witnessed the crime, intervened, and apprehended him, I doubt there would’ve been any consequences for the rapist. The victim will be traumatized the rest of her life, but the actions of two heroes and the resulting prosecution sends a message to sex offenders. This time the message is “Don’t get caught,” but one day people might grow up learning to “Treat everyone, even women, with respect.”


Grads welcomed commencement speaker Ken Burns, a legendary filmmaker who has spent his life shedding light on The Civil War, The War, The West, The National Parks and more.

A stark contrast, from Wacky Walk to observing a moment of silence in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence, and victims of the massacre at a gay club in Orlando that morning. I blinked back tears when the audience spontaneously began counting aloud for each victim of that vicious hate crime…47, 48, 49. Pure pride and joy for my child turned to trepidation at sending her out into our broken world.

Ken Burns proved there’s still intelligent life on the planet, and even in America. His speech was wise and courageous. He ventured off the safe path to politics. Referring to the LGBTQ massacre in Orlando,”We must ‘disenthrall ourselves’…from the culture of violence and guns.”

He implored grads to defeat Trump, “…a person who easily lies…who has never demonstrated interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims…an infantile, bullying man…willing to discard old and established alliances and treaties…Asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747…”

A few people booed, but the majority burst into cheers. Ken concluded…  “We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization…”  Click here and scroll down for Mr. Burn’s excellent closing advice to grads. 

The Class of 2016, at Stanford and throughout the US, has scattered, gone home, to a new job, grad school, even to Mongolia on a Fulbright.

It’s an exciting time, and a little scary as these young adults test their wings and search out their flight path in the Real World.


Bless them all!  We should have gift-wrapped a bright shiny world and tied it in a bow for them. Instead we’ve left them a mess and must ask them to help us save our precious broken world.  It isn’t a game, neatly laid out on a board, with the rules spelled out, and a clear path to winning clearly stated in the instructions.

Perfection is possible only in a perfect world.  Do you think we could ever commit ourselves to kindness and community, and treat each other and our planet with respect?  Because that would be close enough to perfect for me.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Close.

Except for quotes by Ken Burns, all words and images©2016NaomiBaltuck




  1. Mary says:

    Lovely, lovely, Naomi. The pictures, spectrum of topics focusing on Bea’s significant accomplishment. Brava! Thank you for the alert to Ken Burns’ speech. I’ll look for it and pass it on.

    1. Thank you, Mary! That lone would have been worth the trip to California.

  2. Ruth says:

    Wow, what an excellent post! Congratulations to the graduate and her loving family. I like your question at the end, Naomi, and I hope more people commit to increasing their efforts to respect the world and all who live on our planet.

    1. Thank you, Ruth, for stopping by, for your kind words, for your congrats to the grad. It’s so good to hear from you.

  3. Annie Chace says:

    Another great post!

  4. scillagrace says:

    Fabulous post! and what a confluence of politics and culture and individual growth. Bea is just the kind of navigator that I would send out on those waters, to explore, to learn new wisdom, and to bring back the tales that will edify others. Congratulations to you all!

    1. Dear Priscilla,
      Thank you so much! I know they tell you not to talk politics on your blog, but I can’t help myself. Bea is certainly going to go out into the world. She is preparing to travel to a writing retreat, part of the prize for winning the Amy Levy Award, and then she will come home for a couple of weeks so we can outfit her for forty degrees below zero, as she is then heading off to Mongolia on her Fulbright. You’re right; it will surely be a year of learning and growth.
      Hugs to you and yours, dear friend!

  5. Congratulations to your daughter, Bea. ❤ ❤
    I pray we can, "…Do you think we could ever commit ourselves to kindness and community, and treat each other and our planet with respect? Because that would be close enough to perfect for me."

    1. Hi Tess, Thank you so much for your visit. I shall pass your good wishes on to the grad!

  6. Carol says:

    Time passes so very quickly, I cannot believe 4 years have passed already. Beautiful post, which hit my heart when you repeated Ken Burns’ words. We need intelligence, common sense, the ability to unify and encourage tolerance. Without that I fear our future is bleak.

    1. Hi Carol,
      I’m reeling a little bit too–where did the years go? I wish you could have heard him speak–it was what I needed to hear. It’s important to remember that there are intelligent people out there who are not afraid to speak out. I simply cannot understand how anyone would not see through Trump. Even if they knew nothing of his history of using people, his poor management and multiple bankruptcies, wouldn’t a man with such a repugnant and hateful personality turn you away? Even so, I don’t think he can possibly win. Then it would be time to start learning how to speak Italian.

  7. Congratulations to Bea and all of you.


    1. Hi Janet,
      Thanks so much for the visit. I will pass your congrats on to the grad! Best to you too!

  8. Elyse says:

    Congratulations, Bea! Yay Mom!

    1. Thanks, Elyse. I can’t believe my last little chick is launched!

  9. raptekar says:

    Bea IS blessed. And so are her parents to have such a wonderful, smart and joyful offspring. Congratulations!

    1. Thanks, Richard. We are twice blessed. Once because we are, and twice because we know it! Give the triplets a hug from their cousin in Seattle.

  10. ledrakenoir says:

    Congratulations… 🙂

    – and a great post… 🙂

    1. Thanks so much! So good to hear form you–hope you are well.

  11. niasunset says:

    This is great, and so proud of. Congratulations dear Naomi, Best Wishes for your daughter, life begins now for her. Thank you, Love, nia

    1. Dear Nia,
      Thank you for your good wishes–I shall pass them on to the grad! It is wonderful to hear form you–I hope you have been well.

    1. Thanks for the pingback, Chris!

  12. Lucid Gypsy says:

    You must be very proud of your lovely Bea, congratulations and a sparkling future to her!

    1. Hi Gilly,
      Yes, I am very proud of Bea. Thank you so much for your good wishes and kind words.

  13. Lovely. It gives hope – she and you and the coming generation. We need them.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to share your response.

      1. You’re very welcome, Naomi. 🙂

  14. Wonderful post, Naomi! Congratulations to the graduate! Thank you for sharing her special day with us.

    1. Hi Jill,
      Thanks so much! I will pass your good wishes on to the grad. Thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing the day with us!

  15. Naomi says:

    Everything about this post is making me cry – how proud and happy you must be for your daughter, the warmth that radiates from the pictures of your family, the message of kindness and community.
    With your daughter’s beaming, friendly face, I feel sure she’s going to go out and melt any cold hearts she might find in her way. 🙂
    I bet you thought those four years would last forever…

    1. Dear Naomi,
      This is just about the best comment I’ve ever received on a post–it’s as if you could read my mind, you have picked up on all the currents and undercurrents. I think this is exactly what makes you such an excellent book reviewer. We enjoy each other immensely, and your last comment was particularly astute. Even though I knew it would, I am still reeling at how very fast it all went. She’s off to a writing retreat in Scotland–the prize for winning a short story competition, and then she and her brother are going to Mongolia for ten months. They are courageous and this will be an incredible adventure, and I’m very proud of them (but I hope that time goes quickly too!)

      1. Naomi says:

        Your children are so brave. In one way I want mine to be just like them, but in another I want them to stay home with me! I guess it’s good that they’re eventually the ones who get to make their own decisions.
        The writing retreat in Scotland sounds wonderful! And, I’m sure they will have a great experience in Mongolia, as well – especially because they’ll be together.:)
        (As for my last comment, I was just remembering how I thought my own 4 years at university was going to last forever, but then it didn’t. I’m sure I’ll feel the same way when my kids go.)

      2. Dear Naomi,
        I think they’re brave too, to go off and experience life around the globe, and it’s only what we could expect, since we’ve taken them traveling since they were little. I take comfort in the fact that they will be together, watching out for each other, and I know it will be the experience of a lifetime. This year for their birthday we are getting them sub-zero clothing and rabies vaccines! We have always respected their choices, and let them make as many decisions as they possibly could–how they kept their rooms to what they read, what they wore (no fashion police at our house!) or where they went to school. That’s how they learn to make adult choices when the time comes.
        However quickly your school years went, your children’s go much much faster! I know you are treasuring every precious moment as it flies by.
        Best wishes to you and your family!

  16. Kathi Payne says:

    Thank you for your inspiring post, Naomi. I, like you, had hoped to leave our kids a better world, a kinder world. Congratulations to Bea and best wishes for an amazing time in Mongolia!

    1. Thank you, Kathi, for the kind words and congratulations. I will pass your good wishes on to the intrepid travelers!

  17. Congratulations to all of you! It takes a family and a village.

    1. Dear Michael,
      That is the truth! Thanks so much for the visit and your good wishes–will pass them on to the kids!

  18. Congrats to your daughter and you! Her next steps sound so exciting.

    1. Thank you, Lisa. I will be following their adventures with bated breath! I hope you and your sweet family are all well!

    2. Thanks, Lisa. No doubt it will be the adventure of a lifetime–I am so glad the kids will have each other on this adventure.

  19. diannegray says:

    Congratulations to Bea – you all must be so proud!

    I watched Ken Burns’ wonderful speech – it’s great to see sanity prevailing. I’m not an American but the thought of Trump being the next president is horrifying 😉

    I’m also glad Stanford are standing firm on the rape issue – good on them xxx

    1. Hi Dianne,
      I realize that our presidential election will have much bearing on world politics. He CAN NOT win. It would be a global disaster. I can’t believe the majority of Americans would sink so low, but still, I will be on pins and needles until after the election is won by SOMEONE, ANYONE else!

  20. S.E.May says:

    That’s fantastic. Congrats to all of you and most of all you for raising such a great woman.

    1. Thank you so much for the visit, and the kind words–will pass them on to the lass!

  21. Anne Louise Sterry says:

    Oh my oh my oh my, how amazing how wonderful. Love hugs congratulations more love and hugs to Bea and all of you Naomi, Tom and and Eli

    1. Hi Anne-Louise,
      Thanks so much for the congrats–I will pass them on to Bea. The hugs I will deliver to them myself! Best wishes to you and yours!

  22. brushstroke5 says:

    WOW! time really does have wings! OMG! congratulations to bea and her great fam!!! what’s next???? ~havens and linda

    On Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 5:20 PM, Writing Between the Lines wrote:

    > Naomi Baltuck posted: “Four years ago my daughter Bea and I flew down to > California to scout out Stanford. Last week the whole family flew in for > her graduation. She showed us the hotspots around town. For sentimental > reasons we brunched at an Anatolian restaurant. My T” >

    1. Dear Havens and Linda,
      It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? We’ll have her home for a little while in July, and Eli for a couple of days in August before they take wing to Mongolia for ten months! Thank goodness for Skype! Doesn’t it make you want to go hug your grandchildren, quick, before they are taller than you are and you have to stand on your tiptoes to kiss them? We might have to plan some game party therapy this coming year!

  23. Roy McCarthy says:

    What a great post, and beautifully captured in words and pictures. Huge congratulations to Bea. The Stanford rape has had big coverage over this way and has sparked huge debate over the issues of consent and protection of the perpetrators.

    1. Thank you for the visit, Roy. It’s hard to find a balance in a post, and in this world. Some said that the graduation was no place for politics, but I think it’s always important to speak out for justice and against injustice whenever and wherever possible. I’m so glad they nailed him, but I suspect it was only because he was caught in the act when two witnesses chose to get involved. Bless them!

  24. What a wonderful moment in your lives. It’s such a pleasure to watch our children grow and accomplish great things. Bask in the glory of it all.

  25. Maureen Kay says:

    Congratulations to Bea! Very interesting to hear about Stanford’s graduation. By coincidence, I was on that campus six days ago.

    1. Hi Maureen,
      Thanks so much–I will pass on your good wishes to Bea. That is a coincidence–I hope happy business took you to Stanford.

  26. Joy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing….almost like being there. tears and smiles and all. What a family!!!

    1. Dear Joy,

      Thanks so much for the visit, and for the kind words. Looking forward to seeing you! Will you be coming to Meg’s house concert?

  27. Judith Black says:

    Naomi, Am weeping as if it was my child who just climbed through this intricate web of 4 years and emerged as the butterfly who will bring beauty where ever she goes.

    Yes, to our shame, we are leaving them them a warming horror. My hopes ride with the likes of Bea.

    1. Dear Judith, thank you so much your beautiful words. I’ve tried several times to find your Ted talk to no avail. This would be a perfect post to add a link to it, if you could send it to me. And send it also to Jamie Dedes! xoxo, n
      P.S. Am leaving now to go pick up Meg at the Clipper from B.C.! House concert tomorrow!

  28. Kathy says:

    Congratulations to your daughter, Bea. This is a lovely blog post–it felt like we were celebrating along with you an important rite of passage. It felt like Bea has been loved in her college community as well as her family. My children graduated quite awhile ago, but you brought back some of the joy of it all.

  29. litadoolan says:

    Huge hearty congratulations to your daughter !! What an awesome day. The singing bowl at the celebration feels perfect too. Great start to a brilliant future ! Thank you for letting us in on the good news 😉

    1. Thanks so much for joining in the celebration. At this moment Bea is at a writing retreat in Scotland, won as first prize in a short story contest. She will be home for a couple of weeks before heading off to Mongolia for ten months. The lass has hit the ground running! Thanks for your kind wishes, Lita.

  30. nutsfortreasure says:

    Wonderful new hope all is well.

    1. It’s so good to hear from you, Eunice! All is well. Like you, I’m tending my garden, and enjoying the onset of summer. Best wishes to you!

  31. Prior-2001 says:

    Oh wow – this post is jam packed with many layers – I actually plan on coming back to enjoy some pics even more – I do love your posts N!
    And congrats to your daughter and how wonderful her awards and honors – also – Ken Burns – now that is pretty awesome.
    I use his zoom effects all the time – and how cool is it to have an effect named after you -????
    I will try and come back for the link to his speech.

    Anyhow – the emojis photo made me smile and the board game connection was nice – and if. It for the grace of Gid who knows how really bad things would be – whew…..

  32. pattisj says:

    Congratulations to Bea! That four years went by fast. (For me, anyway.)

    1. Thanks, Patti! Can’t believe my baby is teaching in Mongolia right now!

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