Thoughts on Commencement

I’ve been working at a small Christian university in Nashville for almost two years. Today was the second Commencement Convocation I’ve attended as an employee.

Until I worked at a university, there were things about graduation that I never considered. Like the sheer logistics of scheduling different venues around campus for the various ceremonies, hoodings, receptions and dinners. The sheer terror of the possibility of rain and the fear of the phrase “activating the rain plan.” The intricacies of parking and traffic, seating, volunteers, sound systems and live streaming. Making sure there are enough photographers, shuttle drivers and more.

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into making sure commencement is a successful event, and it’s a ton of hard work by people across campus who mostly do so without fanfare or notice. There’s a sense of accomplishment when the event is over, and you know it’s gone well.

Yet even with all the work and stress involved in a successful graduation ceremony, that’s not why I love commencement. I appreciate the pageantry and symbolism, the regalia and the alma mater and sense of school spirit.

Those things are all special, but I love commencement because of the sense of hope that permeates the day. I like to stand just to the side and watch the faculty and graduates march in behind the university president, smiling and happy. I listen as strangers congratulate them. My heart swells with joy as I see them revel in their accomplishments.

Some are traditional undergraduates, finishing bachelor’s degrees and ready to head out into the world of first jobs, grad school, apartment living and marriage. Others are adults who spent nights and weekends finishing degrees, who worked so hard and so diligently to finish a degree, to say they did it, to fulfill that promise they made to mothers and fathers, sons and daughters so long ago that they would indeed graduate from college. There are MBA grads and physician assistants. The students who become Dr. So-and-So in that one moment when degrees are conferred, one tiny moment that somehow encapsulates all those years and months of work.

To see the students whose stories I’ve told, who have worked for me or whom I’ve gotten to know. To smile and congratulate them. To share in a tiny bit of their joy.

I love graduation because of the hope and the sense of community. The knowledge that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves.

So congratulations, Class of 2017. We celebrate with you.

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