Pomp and circumstance – the song brings to mind gowns and mortarboards, joyful celebration, reverence and respect for accomplishment.
College graduations are a time of personal reflection and esteem for your peers, as you come together as a group to reflect on your efforts and achievements.
You sit there in your gown, staring at doctors, civic leaders, captains of industry, celebrities or politicians, there to speak to your graduating class and inspire you as you run headstrong into the real world.
These guests come to the school with the intent to impart a bit of wisdom to the graduating class, and in return they get the chance to feel good about themselves for doing a good thing, and it looks good for the camera.
Lately, though, there have been a lot of people who have used the graduation, and keynote speakers, as a stage for making a statement to the world.
Just like every other facet of humanity, protesters have co-opted this ceremony to show their support or disregard for one thing or another.
Let’s talk about two recent incidents, first at Notre Dame. One of America’s most well-known and well-respected colleges recently had its 2017 graduation ceremony.
Originally, the school –known for asking U.S. presidents in their first year of office to give the keynote speech – had planned to ask President Donald Trump to attend.
When this was first suggested, however, students, faculty and staff immediately began circulating a petition that gained thousands of signatures asking the school’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, to forgo the usual request.
Jenkins agreed to not have Trump give the commencement address, instead inviting Vice President, Mike Pence (most recently governor of Indiana, home of Notre Dame).
Not all students were happy about this choice, either. They informed the school administration they intended to protest by walking out during the vice president’s speech.
The plan was known by UND leaders and was approved, and as the event approached, protesters reminded everyone involved to stay calm and respectful during their protest.
As Pence spoke roughly 100 students stood up, turned around and walked out. There was no official reason given, but with a litany of rainbow flags and pins worn by protesters and hung up around campus, the likely reason for the protest was his anti-gay lawmaking history and policies pushed during his time as governor.
This most recent example, on May 21, was the most civil of recent protests.
Secondly, we have the commencement speech given to the 2017 graduating class of Florida’s Bethune-Cookman University by the U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos.
This May 10 protest was anything but civil.
Students not only turned their back on DeVos, but booed her constantly and loudly, so much so that the school president grabbed the microphone and said if they didn’t stop, the ceremony would be ended and they would receive their diplomas by mail. This still didn’t stop everyone.
Here, then, we have two protests: Both of them received national media coverage, both got their message across.
One was calm, respectful and orderly; one, however, was a major disappointment. It’s disappointing to see some of the students of Bethune-Cookman University behave so poorly.
If you’re upset with someone, that’s fine, protest, send them mail, go to their workplace, grab signs, picket the school’s entrance, do pretty much whatever.
What do you not do?
You don’t ruin the graduation ceremony for the other people around you who have spent the last four or more years working toward a college degree, by acting like children screaming and booing during what is for some the best and most important day of their lives, so far.
If the person performing your wedding wasn’t liked by everyone, how would you feel about some random person in the crowd booing the priest or rabbi or justice of the peace, right while you were trying to get married?
Well, college graduation for some people is just as important to them as marriage.
And some ill-spirited, upset person with no self-restraint booing, screaming and ruining the ceremony without taking into account those around them is just not right.
This plea doesn’t apply to only these fresh examples. There have been many protests at grad ceremonies that have been just plain awful.
And there have been lots of protests in general, in our neck of the woods especially, where people with no direct involvement in the protest, even those being protested against, who are just living their lives, suddenly have their day wrecked because a protester wants to make an ass of himself or herself.
If you’re going to protest something, regardless of what it is, go there with the same goals as Notre Dame students.
Be respectful, be calm, don’t ruin the day of someone else that has nothing to do with your protest, simply because you’re acting like an overstimulated child.