Sunday, May 5, 2024

Commence the Commencement!

It's Commencement Address season!

A commencement address is a speech given to graduating students at a commencement ceremony, typically at universities, colleges, high schools, or other educational institutions. It's usually delivered by a prominent figure such as a guest speaker, an alumnus, a faculty member, or even a celebrity. 

The purpose of a commencement address is to impart wisdom, advice, encouragement, and inspiration to the graduating class as they transition to the next phase of their lives. Speakers often reflect on their own experiences, offer insights into the challenges and opportunities ahead, and share words of wisdom to motivate graduates as they embark on their journey beyond academia. These speeches can cover a wide range of topics, including personal growth, career advice, societal issues, and the importance of lifelong learning and resilience.

Folks tend to confuse commencement with graduation. Participation in the commencement ceremony does not imply that you have officially graduated. Graduation is the completion of all degree requirements as recorded on the official transcript. 

During the pandemic, there were many kids that missed out on having the normal, official commencement ceremony. Well, here we are in 2024, and (once again) there are many college campuses cancelling their commencement ceremonies not due to COVID, but because of conflict. Protests on college campuses have caused many to make the painful decision to cancel their commencement ceremony, citing safety concerns. 

Again, the purpose of a commencement address is to inspire and motivate the graduating students as they transition to the next phase of their lives, whether it be further education, entering the workforce, or pursuing other endeavors. These speeches often reflect on the achievements of the graduating class, offer advice for the future, and sometimes include personal anecdotes or words of wisdom.

Most of us know that commencement ceremonies are typically large gatherings where graduates, their families, faculty, and staff come together to celebrate academic achievements. And sadly, we know all know that in certain circumstances, such as during a pandemic or due to safety concerns, commencement ceremonies might be cancelled or altered. 

One common reason for cancellation is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, especially when there's a risk of a widespread outbreak. For instance, we all know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many commencement ceremonies were cancelled or shifted to virtual formats to minimize the risk of transmission. Other factors that might lead to cancellation include natural disasters, security concerns, budget constraints, or logistical issues. While cancelling commencement ceremonies can be disappointing for graduates and their families, it's often done out of an abundance of caution to prioritize public health and safety.

Where are you going with this Tom? 

Well, I get why you would cancel commencement ceremonies due to things like COVID-19. But I find it ironic that the thing that most college campuses need now - today - right now - is a keynote from a speaker who can share words of wisdom. When you need it the most - when you need someone who can speak with clarity, with purpose, with a clear and compelling vision for the future - we cancel the opportunity for that person to share their wisdom - for all of us. 

Protests on college campuses can stem from a variety of reasons, reflecting the diversity of issues and concerns within the student body and broader society. Here are some common reasons for protests on college campuses:

Social Justice Issues: Students often protest to raise awareness and advocate for social justice causes such as racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, gender equality, immigrant rights, and environmental justice.

Tuition and Fees: High tuition fees and student debt can spark protests as students advocate for more affordable education and better financial aid options.

Campus Policies: Students may protest against specific policies or decisions made by the college administration, such as housing policies, campus safety measures, or academic regulations.

Diversity and Inclusion: Protests may occur in response to incidents of discrimination, racism, or lack of diversity on campus, as students demand greater inclusivity and representation.

Political Issues: Colleges are often centers for political activism, and students may organize protests around local, national, or international political issues such as elections, government policies, or international conflicts.

Labor Rights: Campus workers, including adjunct professors, custodial staff, and food service workers, may organize protests to demand fair wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Free Speech and Academic Freedom: Controversies related to free speech, censorship, or academic freedom can lead to protests as students defend their rights to express themselves and engage in open discourse.

Climate Change and Environmental Activism: Given the urgency of climate change, many students are engaged in protests and activism to push for stronger environmental policies and sustainability initiatives both on campus and beyond.

International Issues: Students may protest against human rights abuses, wars, or other injustices occurring in other parts of the world, demonstrating solidarity with affected communities and calling for action from their own governments.

Solidarity with Other Movements: Campus protests often intersect with broader social movements, with students showing solidarity with movements like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, or the global student-led climate strikes.

Overall, protests on college campuses serve as important platforms for students to voice their concerns, challenge injustices, and advocate for positive change within their communities and society at large. 

But it all needs to be PEACEFUL. Violence on college campuses during protests is a concerning issue that can have significant consequences for students, faculty, and the wider community. It's important to address this problem with a multi-faceted approach that involves both preventive measures and appropriate responses when incidents occur. 

Who would be YOUR pick for an amazing Commencement Address? 

An address for all of us...???

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