Saturday, May 24, 2014

Graduation Day

My daughter's graduation yesterday was a suspicious occasion.

Yes, this was the malapropism dropped by one of the presenters at Montclair State University's commencement ceremony at the Izod Center. I spent the morning watching 4,382 students -- MSU's largest graduating class in its more than 100-year history -- get their degrees.


It was a terrific ceremony. Very well organized, with comfortable setting and great staging. Lots of happiness, enthusiasm and energy in the arena.


I turned to my wife and said, "Finally, we're at a graduation that matters!" She laughed, thinking back to all the other graduation ceremonies we've been at over the years where she muttered under her breath that "graduating from kindergarten..." or "graduating from 8th grade.." wasn't really that noteworthy.


Afterwards, we told our daughter, "Now you can go to beautician's school if you want to..." And she just laughed too... in appreciation. Beauty school had been something she floated as a desire after high school, but my wife and I had insisted she get a college degree first. Being a beautician is a fine job, but my daughter (who used to play "teacher" when she was a little girl) re-discovered her love for teaching while at MSU. Over the past few years, she not only earned her degree in family and child studies, she also earned a teaching certificate.


The commencement speaker, popular author James Patterson, donates scholarships to MSU every year, earmarked to train teachers. During his address, he noted that "teachers save lives" -- and my eyes welled with tears of pride.


My daughter liked Patteron's speech... and the fact that he often posts photos of his orange cat online.


The photo here of the MSU red hawk mascot entertaining the crowd before the ceremony landed on my own Instagram account. I also, as you can see, wore a penguin tie to this auspicious occasion. I had bought this many years ago at the now-defunct all-penguin-item store at the South Street Seaport. Who would have known then that I'd wear it to my daughter's college graduation?


As for the commencement speech, Patterson told many anecdotes... his theme was the power of storytelling... which, I've since found online, he's used on other occasions.


For example, there's this about Catholic guilt:

"This priest came in, and there was a mountain across the street from the school. And he was trying to impress on us how long eternity was. And he said if there was a little bird and once every 1,000 years it flew over to that mountain and carried as much as it could carry in its beak over to this side and put it in our parking lot . . . when he had transported the entire mountain over here, that would be only the beginning of an eternity in Hell."
I'll end here with this one, which impressed me as particularly good life advice:
"Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you're keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls...are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered."
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