Graduations are for the most part joyous events, but typically involve conflicting emotions, especially for the protagonists, the graduates. For Asun and I the emotions (joy, pride, etc.) were fairly uncomplicated. It was also, for us, another first: attending a college graduation as parents. Not surprisingly, the weekend offered a rich supply of clichés, and it requires effort to stay free of them in reflecting back on the festivities and ceremonies. It was certainly a lot of fun celebrating one of these big milestones with the family all together, including brother Stephen (!), accompanied by beautiful weather and lots of happy young people. The Ohlstens were again our superhosts and that really made it possible for us to enjoy everything in a relaxed and stress-free fashion. Thank you Jay and Karen! And kudos again to Jay, my culinary assistant extraordinaire!

More than once over the course of the weekend I found myself comparing what I was observing and experiencing to my own college graduation. The differences are stark on every level. At my own graduation, I had not a single event to attend that involved me being recognized in any way for any kind of achievement. Alma had several. Looking back now, I can only conclude that what was most characteristic of my college experience was its perfect combination of mediocrity and disengagement. I did learn a lot and made significant progress in terms of understanding some of the basic goals of a liberal arts education, advances that I believe have served me well in the long run. But my experiences then were perhaps inwardly directed in excessive fashion. I imagine that someone tried to communicate the same lesson Cornell's president, David Skorton, insisted on in his commencement address to the graduates: stay connected! I may have been listening, but not closely. While listening to Skorton (I am now, thirty years down the line, a better listener), I found myself nodding in agreement, but also thinking, surely you get more than this for $200,000! Of course! (Of course? The cost of higher education and its relative worth will be endlessly debated, but I'm not going to return to that one today. Suffice to say, I'm confident that the resources we dedicate to private higher education are a good investment.) As for the particular case of our oldest daughter, I'm most confident. As we like to say here at Dickinson, this student is "fully engaged." And very accomplished, if I do say so myself.

In her marvelous address to her classmates, Alma alluded to the irony of calling graduation "commencement": there is no question that students are celebrating the end of something. But maybe that's how we justify such a heavy investment in education: feeling like maybe you haven't learned so much? Hey, not to worry, it's just the beginning. You'll see the benefits later. Without this education you may be at greater risk of false starts. Maybe, maybe not. I really don't know; I, too, feel like I'm just getting started.

Well, who knows what is about to commence. It looks like West Africa for the graduate. Another story for another day. In the photo: why I get up every morning.

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