I always thought that my journey through GW would end at the same place it began – in front of the White House.
On the second day of my freshman year, I set out with my new friends to explore Washington for the first time. There was no debate about the first place we would head. For new GW students eager to explore their surroundings, our destination was obvious.
The White House.
There is still nothing more remarkable about this University than its location only four blocks from the White House; in fact, without its proximity to power there wouldn’t be much to GW.
I have a picture from that day of a younger and far skinnier Adam smiling and leaning against the fence of the White House. In my mind, it’s the first moment that I really entered this new world; it was the beginning of my journey through GW.
I’m not absolutely certain, but I think that at some point during that first trip someone uttered the words, “How cool is it we get to graduate in front of the White House?” to nods of approval. Even on the second day of our freshman year, the idea of graduating on the Ellipse was on our minds.
So that’s where my journey here began and for the last three years, that’s where I’ve expected my journey to end. I’ve found myself drawn back to the White House so much that at times it seemed like just another part of campus, like J Street or Gelman.
Later in my freshman year, after the premiere of “The West Wing,” we trekked out to see the real West Wing just because we could. My late-night skateboard sessions often culminated in a skate down traffic-free Pennsylvania Avenue. On the last night as a freshman there was that run-in with the Secret Service during my first drunken monument tour. During the 2004 election every few days I would alter my walk to Kerry Headquarters to pass by it so that I could remind myself why I was working 14-hour days as an unpaid intern. After the election, it was months before I could walk by it again.
Every time I walked down past it, one thought was always in the back of my mind; how fitting was it that I get to graduate in front of the White House? What could be a more perfect ending to this journey?
That’s why the news that my class wouldn’t be graduating on the Ellipse was so disappointing to me. My perfect little storyline had been ruined and all the angry Facebook groups I started were not going to change that.
Of course, I hope we graduate somewhere equally, if not more befitting, than the Ellipse. There are plenty of locations that provide that opportunity in D.C. A graduation on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and alongside the Reflecting Pool would be incredible. The same goes for a ceremony at the base of the Washington Monument, the symbolic center of D.C., with a national monument in every direction you turn. Or even thinking audaciously, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in a ceremony usually only reserved for a presidential inaugurations. It all almost seems like too much to hope for. Though I understand it is not the GW administration’s fault, it is their responsibility.
I have to stop and remind myself that Commencement isn’t the most important thing in college, no matter how much we glorify it at GW. What is most important is that time between the first picture in front of the White House and wherever the class of 2006 ends up on May 21. All journeys have a beginning and an end. Even if this were not how I thought my time at GW would come to a close, it might just turn out to be a better ending than I had first imagined.
-The writer, a senior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.