Friday, June 11, 2010

Graduation Day

Today was graduation at The Evergreen State College, Washington's unique liberal arts college located on the outskirts of Olympia. Two friends that I know through my work with veterans graduated today. One is a mid 30's Iraq veteran. The other is a 72 year old retired veterans' advocate. I went out to join the celebration. It was the first graduation ceremony I've attended since my own baccalaureate 40 years ago. That event was certainly non-traditional by Virginia standards, coming barely a month after the Kent State murders and an extended student strike. But today's event was much more fun.

It says something about Olympia that in less than two years I have made friends who graduated today. That never happened in Arizona. It also says something about the community that its signature college is so free spirited. The procession was led by the Artesian Rumble Arkestra (the same band that plays at the Friday vigils) who never sounded better and certainly kept the affair from being too serious. The commencement speaker was Josh Blue, a comedian who graduated from Evergreen in 2001. That kept things from being too serious as well. Caps and gowns were optional and graduates appeared in a variety of apparel. Many crossed the stage with family members. Two graduates walked with their service animals. One graduate juggled sticks as she approached the stage. A group on the edge of the crowd strung tightropes between several trees and spent much of the ceremony trying out their balancing skills.

It's an event worth attending just for the entertainment value. In many respects it was a graduation ceremony with parents, friends, balloons and flowers--all the things you'd see at any college. But how many people get to walk across Red Square to take their degree?



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