Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Brown Graduation Weekend, '13

Below are some photos capturing some of the pomp (and parental pride) of the Brown graduation on Sunday.  I could not be more proud of Ethan - and of my alma mater.  

You can watch the video of the college ceremony here, featuring a beautifully poetic invocation.

And the later, university ceremony can be seen below, featuring a moving student oration by Tanayott Thaweethai who stated that, in life, "we will find ourselves faced with a seemingly infinite number of doors. Some of these will be ornately decorated and lined with great salaries and generous 401(k)s. Others will be run-down and wearing at the hinges. Some will lead you halfway around the world and others will lead you back home. Some of us, inevitably, will build our own doors. But as you reach for the handle, remember this: Do not walk through a door just because it is open. Find the door you refuse to let close. That, I promise you, is the right one." 

And then there is the Baccalaureate Service, a kaleidoscope of cultural and spiritual diversity that is so perfectly and uniquely "Brown."  You can see that here

People have been asking me how it feels to be the parent of a college graduate. Ben Affleck mentioned that when he told his young daughter that he was getting an honorary degree from Brown, she asked him how he could be getting a diploma when he did none of the homework.   And it's true, as a parent, I did none of the homework (though a full share of the sweating).  The only thing I could do at commencement was reflect back on all the years since I took that exact same walk through the Van Wickle Gates   So much has happened, so much that I could never have predicted back then, so many doors have opened and closed behind me.  One of those doors led my son to exactly the same place, at a very different time.

I am reminded of "Laurie's Song" from the Aaron Copland opera, "The Tender Land."  It's sung by a girl graduating high school, but the sentiments are similar. 

Once I thought I’d never grow tall as this fence.
Time dragged heavy and slow.
But April came and August went before I knew just what they meant,
And little by little I grew,
And as I grew, I came to know how fast the time could go.
Once I thought I’d never go outside this fence.
This space was plenty for me,
But I walked down the road one day, and just what happened I can’t say.
But little by little it came to be:
That line between the earth and sky came beckoning to me.
Now the time has grown so short; the world has grown so wide.
I’ll be graduated soon. Why am I strange inside?
What makes me think I’d like to try
To go down all those roads beyond that line above the earth and ‘neath the sky?
Tomorrow when I sit upon the graduation platform stand,
I know my hand will shake when I reach out to take that paper with the ribboned band.
Now that all the learning’s done, Oh who knows what will now begin?
Oh it’s so strange, I’m strange inside.
The time has grown so short; the world so wide.

The horizon beckons, the possibilities are endless and the choices daunting.  It is a time that we elders recall both with a shudder of fear and a twinge of envy.  Many of our most fateful choices have already been made, and in a world far less complex.  The horizon before us is far less wide, now, but we too feel strange inside, reminded at each commencement that choices still abound, even as we watch the product of so many thousands of our choices step forward to receive his diploma.  

At this time of year, with so many transitioning, we can be guided by the compass of Deuteronomy, which reminds us to set a single parameter that can guide us in every choice we make. Whenever confronted with a key decision, we should choose life.

That choice is explained by Rabbi Yitz Greenberg 
in this commencement address at Sacred Heart University a few years ago (BTW a great new site dedicated to Yitz's work has just been launched):  

"In sum, there is no neutral act in life and there is no moment without choice. Not to choose is to choose. Therefore graduates...in the name of humanity which waits upon your choice, and for the sake of God who years for your choice in love, go forth and choose life." 

Below are photos from last Sunday's Brown graduation. Click to enlarge.  

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