The culmination of every student’s four (or five or six) years here occurs at the University commencement ceremony. In the one opportunity for the University to finally applaud its hard working graduates, it seems that no expense was spared in making the occasion special. Sunday’s Commencement was dripping with almost as much GW pride as a Colonial Cabinet meeting. All in all, it was a commencement fit for its University.
Claims about the University’s extension into the city took a literal step with the placement of the ceremony on the Ellipse. This unique location not only provided a beautiful backdrop, but also showcased the geographical characteristics that make GW a special place to learn.
It seemed that some parents and older guests may have not been suited to the heat, and initial shortage of chairs added to their level of frustration and discomfort. Once a new section of chairs opened and the ceremony finally began, however, everyone seemed to enjoy the upbeat and interesting lineup of award winners, speakers and honorees.
GW’s selection of a trio of lesser-known luminaries to precede Andy Rooney exposed the graduates to a wider array of opinions and perceptions than would have been afforded had one big-name speaker dominated the roster. The trio seemed not only distinguished, but humbled by the honor of receiving their honorary degrees. Their words of wisdom for the graduates were nothing out of the ordinary, yet nuanced from the individual life experiences of each speaker.
The ceremony was not without its detractions. The mad dash of parents and friends trying to fill up the seats behind the graduates was distracting at the beginning of the ceremony. The music was less than traditional and at some points simply strange. President Trachtenberg erred in his directions to an honorary degree recipient Mildred Dresselhaus and was told by University Marshal Jill Kasle to step away from the microphone.
The few errors made during the ceremony, however, were definitely offset by the high quality of the bathrooms. The bathrooms were clean and air conditioned. Anyone who was able to experience them would certainly leave the ceremony satisfied.
Commencement on the Ellipse is a reflection of the overall GW experience that most students encounter. At first (during Colonial Inauguration), it seems as if everything is perfect. Then, in the middle, its easy to see that there are flaws – administrators often make mistakes and not everything lives up to its CI hype. In the end, though, it’s all over much quicker than it seems.
Over four years, GW students learn from their professors, their peers and mostly from themselves. After such an experience, it would be wise for GW graduates to heed the advice of many commencement speakers: to look past the daily business of life and work to make the world a better place in whatever way they can.