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COMMENCEMENT
7/9/2011 5:16:14 AM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

Memorial Day weekend we were in Memphis to attend the University of Tennessee exercises for the UT Health Services Center commencement to confer doctorships on a plethora of brand new physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, therapists and other health care providers who successfully completed a rigorous course of study that, at long last, led to a career in medicine.

Our primary purpose in being there was two-fold: our son-in-law, Phillip Faucette, married to the youngest daughter, Alexandra — parents of our infant grandson, Hutson — was about to become a bona fide Doctor of Dental Surgery. In addition, the youngsters were in the process of packing up and heading for Nashville, where Phillip will proudly hang out his shingle and begin practice forthwith.

We were quite taken by the graduation ceremonies (I use the plural “ceremonies” because there were, actually, two graduations in which Phillip participated.) The first, on Thursday, was the Hooding and Awards Ceremony solely for the School of Dentistry, held at the Georgetown Performing Arts Center, a most elaborate venue. It was there that Phillip was “hooded” atop his robes with the three “doctorate” stripes and the bright linen scarf of academic honors.

The next day we gathered at the magnificent FedEx Forum in downtown Memphis for the graduation of all UT health care providers. Unquestionably, there was no commencement anywhere in America to rival the ‘pomp and circumstance’ of this event. Even little Hutson (quiet as a brick throughout the Hooding Ceremony) howled and shrieked in all the right places during Graduation!

My wife — herself a college summa cum laude graduate in the mid-90’s — made an observation, which was the best commencement speech I’d ever heard. “It’s overwhelming,” she whispered, “the intellectual power emanating from the floor down there, like some magnetic force, from all those students getting their doctorates! Talk about collective brain power!”

It reminded me of my own graduation — an event that never took place, except in my reveries. Not graduate school. Not college. Not even high school. (We didn’t have the absurdity of nursery or elementary school graduations, but looking back, it might have been a good idea.)

Because my parents moved frequently, I was compelled to complete my senior high school year in Rochester, NY rather than Norfolk, VA. The Yankee Boys’ Advisor misread my “transcript” and did not realize until late May that I was ˝ credit short of the 16 required to graduate — one subject I took in Virginia was not recognized in New York.

“What am I to do?” I wailed, my eyes flooded with tears of dismay.

“Go to summer school, I guess,” yawned the indifferent Y.B.A.

“And take what?” I moaned, gasping for breath.

“Economic geography. All you gotta do is show up. Nobody ever fails.”

“Can I still graduate?” I cried, hot coals choking off my words.

“Sure. But not till August.”

“But there’s no ceremony in August!” I screamed, falling to my knees and writhing on the floor. “Can I at least march with my class?”

“No.”

“But my diploma . . . ” I blubbered, totally ruined.

“We’ll mail it to you.”

Later — 62 years down the road, in 2011 — the other grandmother, Carole Faucette, asked, as we entered the restaurant for a celebratory dinner, “Where’d you get your Ph.D from, Robert?”

“My what?”

“You know — your Ph.D.”

“I have no Ph.D,” I said, forlornly hanging my head in shame.

“No? You sure had me fooled. I always thought your ‘Paul Harvey Delivery’ was perfect!”

Speaking of Paul Harvey, the first GOP presidential debate took place less than a month later. It was then that I realized Barack Obama deserves, has earned, and will get a second term as President of the United States. The GOP handed it to him on a silver platter at their Republican debate in Manchester that frigid New Hampshire night, and I realized all the candidates were descended from the Yankee Boys’ Advisor who had screwed up my transcript in 1949.

The eight or nine contestants offered nothing but lukewarm attacks on the current Administration. They didn’t even denigrate each other, though every opportunity arose. When it was all over (less than ten minutes after it began) only Mitt Romney, the most vapid of them all, could be declared the “winner” — a rather empty victory when you consider his peers.

If anyone emerged as a clear-cut knight in shinning armor that evening it was Robert Gibbs. As an analyst, the former White House press secretary stepped into the limelight as a most astute observer of political peccadilloes since David Brinkley, noting such as the candidates’ insistence on slamming Mr. Obama personally rather than outlining whatever remedial steps they might take if the electorate was so foolish as to put any of them into the Oval Office.

I was reminded of the statehood of Nevada back in 1864. Our beloved, good old “Honest” Abe was up for re-election, and the scenario was bleak, to say the least. Because of the disastrous aspects of a Civil War (we were to lose 650,000 Americans, more than in any of our wars before or since combined!) the dearth of electoral votes kept him awake nights.

“I got an idea,” said the Great Emancipator. “Why don’t I make Nevada a state and grab those votes? They love me in the desert. Besides, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

“Won’t work!” his advisors screamed. “The population of that territory is short by more than 20,000! You can’t do it!”

That’s all the rail-splitter from Illinois needed to hear. “I can’t? Just watch me!” The rest is history.

Of course, there are no territories left for Mr. Obama to annex for statehood — except, wait a minute, what about Puerto Rico and Guam? Nah, why bother? He won’t need them. Besides, Michele Bachmann would never sit still for it. She probably thinks they’re states already, so declared in 1779 by John Quincy Adams, later ratified by John Wayne.





Copyright©2011 by Robert A. Mills


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Head of the Beast by Martyn Kinsella-Jones

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