Dear oldest daughter:
It is hard to believe you have just completed your sophomore year of college. That means you are less than two years away from realizing “Dime Drink Night” is only for people who don’t have to get up for work at 6:30 the following morning.
It also means you are ever so closer to sitting in that football stadium with your fellow graduates and walking across the stage to receive a diploma when your name is called. Of course, your mother and I will be there, making full use of our iPhones’ “burst” feature in hopes we get at least one usable photo of the historic occasion.
So now is probably a good time to remind you that you WILL walk across that stage. This is not one of those “you will keep your grade point average at an acceptable level or else” threats; I’m just saying that your attendance at graduation is mandatory, regardless of whomever the university chooses as its commencement speaker, including but not limited to the following:
Flo from the Progressive insurance ads
The person who invented the enema
I say this now, just in case you’re considering walking out of the ceremony if a speaker whose views you disagree with approaches the podium. We’ve seen this occur multiple times over the years at prestigious (and expensive) universities. Notre Dame got most of the press this year when some grads exited as Vice President Pence was clearing his throat to begin. President Barack Obama received similar treatment in 2009.
Nobody left Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s recent speech to Harvard’s class of 2017, which shocked me. Surely at least one grad was miffed by Zuckerberg’s steadfast refusal to delete the accounts of everyone who posts annoying photos of what they consumed during Sunday brunch.
Some media outlets called the Notre Dame protesters “heroes,” “angels” and “freedom fighters.” I neither applaud nor condemn the grads’ decisions to leave, for none of them have the last name “Schwem.”
This brings me back to you. While I hope that college teaches you to stand up for your beliefs and to voice your opinion against what you feel is oppression (e.g., poor policy choices and discrimination), can you, just for one moment, realize the financial hardship and inconvenience leaving your commencement would impose on your mother and me?
For starters, there would be the wasted expense of the hotel room we reserved the night before your ceremony. Do you know how much hotels in the area jack up their prices during graduation weekend? I’ll give you a hint; you could buy about 4,000 pina coladas at Dime Drink Night. (Please don’t do that, by the way.)
Then there’s the issue of having to dash from our seats when we suddenly see you leaving the stadium to participate in an “alternative ceremony,” outside the premises. I’ve joined you for several football games at this stadium, and the seating accommodations are, shall we say, a tad cramped? I remember all the knees I jostled and the glares I received when I had to use the restroom in the third quarter. I don’t feel like saying, “Excuse me, pardon me, excuse me, that’s my daughter down there” during the ceremony while I chase you into the tunnel.
And remember, I’ll be shooting pictures of you the entire time. As I mentioned, I’d really like a keepsake of your smiling face accepting a diploma, as opposed to a shot of your backside, along with those of your fellow protesters.
If you really despise the speaker, stick cotton in your ears, wear headphones or, in Pence’s case, spend the entire speech vowing to get a job that will help a Democrat retake the Oval Office in 2020. But don’t leave. Your mother and I sacrificed so much to put you in that stadium, and we expect to see the fruits of our labor delivered on that glorious afternoon. Of course, none of this will matter if your university chooses a non-controversial speaker.
Why don’t you spend your last two years of college helping to secure Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? He seems harmless.