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