Tomorrow is graduation, and it might be a weather disaster given the 60% chance of thunderstorms predicted. The University of Chicago has no inside alternative: they just pass out plastic rain ponchos to keep you dry.
I couldn’t help but feel a twinge as I walked home by the empty venue, which tomorrow morning will fill up with happy graduates and their relieved parents.
I went to such a ceremony twice, and no matter how jaded you are, it’s a thrill. Feeling insouciant, I almost didn’t go to my Harvard graduation, but at the last minute two of my pals and I decided to rent caps and gowns. All that was left in the bookstore on graduation day were remainders—way too large. But I was glad I went, for Alexander Solzhenitsyn spoke, his famous address rebuking the laxity of Western societies. Here at Chicago, the tradition is to have only academics and intellectuals give the graduation address—no movie stars, authors, or entertainers. Solzhenitsyn would not have been invited.
When I remembered the “mission accomplished” feeling I had back then, I remembered that I am still fulfilling a vow I made when young. Observing how stimulating the University was, and the joy I got from a life of learning, I vowed that, as far as I could, I’d never leave college.
I’ve succeeded. 49 years after entering college, I’m still here. I’ve had only about two years of respite—when I worked in a hospital as a conscientious objector and then, after 13 months of that, traveled to Europe for ein halb Wanderjahr.
I’ve been at it nearly half a century—even rock stars can’t keep it up that long!