It's June. In UK, this is the graduation month for final year students. I remembered when I underwent my undergraduate graduation 19 years ago. Though this year I really have to symphatise with all Brunei students in UK. I just hope that everyone gets through with all the lecturers going on strike and all that. For those of you who somehow managed to get through all those exams and those strikes, congratulations on your upcoming graduation ceremonies. It's the mother of all graduations that you would have undertaken throughout your life.
For today, I am steering clear of any contentious education issues. I was reading the New York Times and one article about 'commencement' stood out which talks about the commencement speeches given at American universities. For those of you whose education background is Brunei, UK and Oz, 'commencement' means 'graduation'. I am not sure why the American graduation is called differently. I was told that 'commencement' means you are commencing on your new life as opposed to graduating from school. But one thing I remembered about my Master's commencement at Harvard, that it was a very joyful and colourful affair and not a very solemn traditional one like the ones we attended at UBD, British or Australian universities. I particularly remembered mine, we had an Imam leading the commencement prayer which was a first for Harvard in its 350 year history to have an Islamic cleric led the commencement prayer.
Anyway, what interested me most about the article was the opening remarks given by the Deans, guest of honour etc. But the most outstanding one was by a Bill Bradley, a former US Senator at Ithaca College which begins:-
"... President Williams, members of the faculty, members of the class of 2006, friends and family of the class of 2006. I want to continue my acknowledgments. I'm very sensitive, I want to make sure that I acknowledge every element of this community. And so let me borrow from Garry Trudeau and continue my acknowledgments: and so I recognize Chairman Bill Haines and members of the board of trustees, bored members of the trustees, those who watch "The Sopranos," those who watch "American Idol," those who still watch the reruns of "Frasier," those who don't like TV.
Denizens of Ithaca, denizens of the night, knights of Tompkins County, people of class, classy people, people of height, the vertically constrained, people of hair, the indifferently coiffed, the optically challenged, the temporarily sighted, the insightful, the out of sight, the out-of-towners, the Afrocentrics, the Eurocentrics, the Eurocentrics with Eurail passes, the eccentrically inclined. The sexually disinclined, people of sex, sexy people, earthy people, animal companions, friends of the earth, friends of the boss, the temporarily employed, the differently employed, the differently optioned, people with options, people with stock options, Knick fans, Celtic fans, those who don't have the wisdom to be either Knick or Celtic fans, the divestiturists, the deconstructionists, the home constructionists, the homeless, the temporarily housed at home, and, God save us parents, the permanently housed at home. Good morning! ..."
Wow! Talk about inclusivity! You can only do this at an American university but no way you can do this at any other universities in the world. At times like this, I much prefer the solemn and traditional ceremonies at our local and British universities.
To those of you who are 'commencing' your new life - I wish you all the best. I wish I can turn time all over again to be with you as you crossed over the threshold of the working world.