I WENT TO the Saddleback College 2007 Commencement this morning. Initial gloom gave way to sunshine and smiles. It was a pleasant event, especially for the students.
The SC football field and stand offered a beautiful setting: lots of green grass, lots of trees in the background, and lots of red— the graduates' gowns and the elliptical track.
Board President David Lang got up to quote from Chicken Soup of the Soul, one of his favorite books, evidently. He told a story about somebody named I CAN'T who gets buried. "I can't is no longer with us," he read.
The theme to Romper Room played in my head.
Then Chancellor Raghu P. Mathur got up to tell that old saw about the guy who builds his friend a yacht, but he does it on the cheap so he can pocket some dough. When he finishes the build, the friend hands him the keys to the yacht. “It is my gift to you.”
Now, what did we learn from this? Not sure. Maybe: "Do your best," 'cause otherwise you'll get stuck with a shitty yacht.
The “commencement address” was given by one Nico Melendez, the Orange County Municipal Dogcatcher. Well, no, he’s the “Western Field Director, Transportation Security Administration.” Nobody bothered to explain what that is, which was probably wise. He didn’t say anything about transportation or security. He did say that he wasn’t gonna give his prepared speech, cuz he tried it on his wife, and she said it was a snoozer. So, instead, the fellow explained what a shitty student he was (he went to Saddleback College), and how he didn’t go to a university after graduating. Instead, he joined the Navy.
The moral of the story? Some graduates, he said, will now go to a university. “Congratuations,” he said. And some won’t. “Congratulations,” he said again. “You’re just taking a different road.”
Well, at least he was brief. SC Prez Rich McCullough managed to make a joke about Director Melendez—something about asking him to take off his shoes.
Near as I could tell, the audience thought Melendez was great, 'cause he was WAY brief.
ASG Prez Rebecca Cunningham described how Saddleback College saved her from directionlessness. Even at Saddleback, she said, for the first two years, she was a lousy student. Then she took a self-esteem course, and that “changed my life.” Now, she knows that she “can do anything.”
Nevertheless, Cunningham is a decent speaker. Better than the transportation guy.
Next came Ruth McCoy, who is 80 years old and was wearing a “cap and gown” for the fourth time. I’d say she was the highlight of the commencement ceremony, what with her story about going to college (must’ve been around 1945), quitting to get married, and then returning to college in the 60s for a bachelors degree. She described her time at Saddleback, how her fellow students accepted her as a peer and had the good sense not to call her “grandma.”
Don’t ever think, she said at the end, that your education is over! It was a nice moment.
Carmen and the SC Wind Ensemble next provided a rousing version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” They were accompanied by the Concert Choir, and they sounded pretty good, too.
After presentation of the “Professors of the Year,” Academic Senate President Bob C came up and gave an effective little speech. He described an address that Bob Hope gave at a commencement many years ago. Everyone at the college expected Hope to be funny, but, instead, he was very serious. Then, at the end of his speech, the Bobster said that he wanted to give graduates one small piece of advice before they entered the big world out there. He leaned forward and said,
Well, that was about it. Next came the reading of the names, and I was on my way. I do hope you like the photographs.
I arrived a few minutes late for commencement. Tonight, a friend told me that some sort of "protest" against the religious invocation (usually given at the start of the ceremony) was planned. If that occurred, I missed it.
5/22: There was indeed a protest. This is the banner that was displayed during the commencement invocation: