Originally published on 5-22-13
Five days ago I sat at watched UT’s graduating economics class receive their diplomas and walk from one end of the stage to the other. When the stepped onto the stage they were on their way to being congratulated for their hard work and by the time they stepped off they were expected to take all that hard work and accomplishment contribute to the world.
This is what I wrote while I watched:
As I sit here watching these bright eyed young men and women with their decorated hats and shoes that in 20 years’ time will give away what era they graduated in, I think…I know nothing about them. I don’t know their struggles or successes. I don’t know whether they lived in a public dorm or in a private dorm, whether both their parents are here celebrating with them or whether no one is, whether they have a job lined up or not, but I do know that their naivety is my hope, their unsullied perception of the world and how it seemingly works gives them a chance at success. My Dad always told me, the bumble bee flies because it doesn’t know it can’t. It’s true, aaerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway, how great of a miracle is that?
Surrounding me are immigrant and first generation families who saved money and took out loans to see their child walk tall across that stage. I too was one of those children. The room is filled mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers who put on their Sunday best to celebrate the fact that all the years they spent: cleaning houses, going to the office, driving that school bus, packing those sack lunches, helping with homework and driving their kids to band practice paid off. The gymnasium is filled with cheers and happiness not only for the graduates but for their hard working families. In order to mark this special occasion, ipads are recording and being held up the air, bright neon posters are being waved, horns are being blown, whistles are being let out, and hands are being clapped over and over and over. It’s joyous to watch and feel. The sense of pride is palpable.
I cheer loudly for the Hispanics because in my mind I think they had a rockier road than others and even more loudly for the female Hispanics because I know what it’s like to come from a small town and walk into a few hundred person class where not very many people look like you and where the professor decides to give you a nick name because your birth name, well, that’s too difficult to pronounce. Maybe these young ladies didn’t experience any of what I did, but maybe they did. And every time I see someone walk across the stage to receive a diploma with highest honors and a double major in math and economics, I am blown away by how much hard work that takes. Let’s get real, 9 years ago I walked away with a respectable Marketing degree from one of the greatest business schools around, UT’s Business School, but I was no honors student. I did have flair though, I did have flair.
My hope is that even thought these graduates don’t owe anything to their families per se, and that the graduates should follow their dreams and fulfill their hearts, that they don’t take their community’s sacrifices in vain. I hope that each graduate takes the time to clear a pathway not only for themselves but for those who are coming along with him/her and those who will follow.