It’s graduation season.
UC Berkeley handed out diplomas on May 12. SF State held their event on the 19th. Academy of Art University commencement is Thursday and Friday this week. San Jose State has their event this Saturday. Santa Clara’s big day is June 16. Stanford will confer degrees to its graduates June 17.
As an academic, I really get excited for the kids this time of year. I’ve had a great time the past few days sitting with my students, looking at the smiles on their faces when I ask them, “So, this is it…” I love those smiles. They are radiant, glowing, hopeful grins- not a shred of melancholy evident.
President James Madison understood the value of education, positing that without learning, knowledge, and education there is no chance of liberty and democracy. And without persistence and hard work, learning is simply not possible. We all understand and appreciate that hard work, persistence, learning and democracy are core American values.
The media is painting a picture of decline, and there is some evidence to back it up. The economy is limping. America’s politicians are largely trying to figure out how to burn the other side of the aisle at the stake, their polemic (from both sides) an outright bunch of lies. They have no appreciation of the noble goal of working together, to give heft to President Madison’s lofty goals of liberty and opportunity.
In some ways, The Class of 2012 got lucky. They started their journey in 2008, the same month that Lehman Brothers collapsed, sparking a meltdown we hadn’t witnessed since the 1930s.
While older brothers and sisters graduated into a craptacular job market, this year’s graduates took shelter in classrooms, ever hopeful that things would be better when their name is called at commencement.
Things are better.
The job market has improved, companies are increasing hiring levels, and the dismal prospect of moving back in with the folks is not necessarily an inevitability.
A window has just opened for the Class of 2012. A window of opportunity, a chance to make choices. They are nervous, to be sure- but aren’t we all?
My niece (from my chosen family) graduates from university Saturday. I’m going to spend some time with her asking about her window. I’m going to listen to her responses, and I’ll bet her words will be remarkably similar to the words of a recently laid-off older worker. Her words will be a roiling mix of hope, doubt, dread and anticipation.
A gap in our lives, whether created by graduation or termination, is a golden opportunity. We get so few of these in our lives. The window doesn’t stay open long- life has a habit of showing up along the way.
My hope, for my students at AAU and the student in your life, is liberty and security.
We have a lot in common with them.
How will we act when our own window comes open?