Log in Subscribe
Barry Lewis

College graduation

Barry Lewis
Posted 5/12/23

There’s nothing like college graduation day.

You hear speeches. Lots of speeches. By politicians and business leaders. Educators and entertainers. Most you’ve never heard of. They …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Barry Lewis

College graduation


There’s nothing like college graduation day.

You hear speeches. Lots of speeches. By politicians and business leaders. Educators and entertainers. Most you’ve never heard of. They praise past accomplishments. Offer a future of promise and prosperity. They tell you to think on your own and advise you not to take advice from strangers. Words dripping with inspiration while you dripping with perspiration.

I’ll never understand why some schools pay a fortune for commencement speakers. It’s not as if anyone selects a college with the hope they’ll have a really notable commencement speaker in four years. There’s only one reason why we sit for hours on metal chairs under a hot sun or an airless gym.

It’s to hear your name called.

Up the stairs you go, with cap, tassel and gown.

Seconds later, you’re handed a diploma, the tangible achievement of your educational milestone and an empty bank account.

You grasp the sheepskin and hear the college president from good old Pay-Until-You-Drop-U, whom you’re meeting for the first time, say “Congratulations!”

Now you can begin the quest for monetary gains and to make a meaningful mark on society.

But all that hard work will have been for naught if you don’t perform one single task. A simple request from the folks who brought you into this world. Are you listening?

Please. For God’s sake, when you get that diploma, look at the camera and smile!

Can you do that?

Without those stupid sunglasses. Without sticking out your tongue. Without those hand gestures —you’re not in a gang. And smile nicely.

Are we asking too much?

We raised you. Fed you. Gave you unconditional love, security and co-signed your college loan.

We paid your car insurance, kept feeding your food account and filled out those FAFSA forms.

So look at the camera and smile!

I’ve been to enough of these to understand why they don’t call it just a “graduation.”

It’s a “commencement exercise.” That makes sense.

After sitting around for three hours to ensure we get the best seat, parents commence exercising joints and muscles usually reserved for blocking linemen. Hey, you do what you have to do to get the photo.

Before handing out the diplomas, the college president performs the more substantial duty of chief photo organizer, laying down the picture ground rules while flailing arms as if bringing down planes at Kennedy. Or about to fly away:

“For all parents and friends who want to take pictures of your graduate, please stand on the right side of the stage in a single file, move several steps to your left, my right, as diplomas are given to graduates on my left, your right. As your graduate is about to receive his or her diploma, continue to move left until said diploma is handed out and grasped by said graduate. At this point you can take your picture, after which I ask that all parents and friends exit the line in a counter-clockwise manner and return to their seats so that other parents and friends can have an opportunity to take a picture of their graduate.”

There’s less violence at the Running of the Bulls than in the pit area where graduates come down after being handed their diploma. The shouts start as they near the steps.

“Look at me... wait...look at me... stop... look at me... smile! Good. No, wait. One more. Look at me. SMILE!!! Great…now back up so I can get some video!”

That’s what graduation day is really all about. The picture.

And, of course, the diploma.

That’s why we want the picture. To show everyone how proud we are. That shot will give us a lasting memory of what you have accomplished.

And a constant reminder of where all our money has gone.

Barry Lewis is a longtime journalist and author who lives with his wife Bonnie in the Town of Neversink. He can be reached at      barrylewisscdemocrat@gmail.com.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here