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Graduation Commencement

December 21, 2008
          "By the power invested in me by the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania State University, I now bestow you the degree, you may move your tassels",
Jack then gestured the students who stood up to move their tassels from above their right eyes to the left.
 
The weather outside is icy cold and frightful.  But in the graduation hall, all hearts are warm, proud and hopeful.  Such is the proud moment for graduates.  Some parents cried, others hold back their tears even during the speech of the invited speaker.
 
Commencement (or convocation) is a ceremony like wedding ceremonies.  It’s a time to remember, a time to look back on how much you have sloth to gain the degree that you so deserved.  A time especially for parents who attend to see their children grow up to be responsible educated adults ready to enter the working class, ready to lead.  Those getting their tuition paid by the military are the proudest of all.  Not only do they turn up with their military No. 1 uniform, they have to pull their chest up and sit up straight all the time and walk like they’re marching.
 
But what do the Chancellor, Dean, Vice Chancellor and professors (or even the speaker himself) who have to attend this yearly event thinks?  What’s on their mind?  After all, they’re in their ceremonial gowns too.  They have more pride because their gowns are usually more colourful, more elaborate and…unique!
 
Especially those professors with PhDs, no two regalias looks exactly the same, unlike the rest of the "Bachelor".  The Penn State University’s "Bachelor" do not have hoods (or colour or collar) and the colour is a dull blue.  If you’re exceptional, (Cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude or Highest Distinction) you might have an extra "string" around your neck.
 
After each individual "Bachelor" name is called and handed his "degree", he/she comes down and shakes hands with faculty members.  There are awkward moments because sometimes he/she doesn’t see faculty members he knows but have to shake hands with.  Usually upon seeing faculty members he/she knows there’ll be hugs,  bear-hug.  I must admit, girls "Bachelors" get a little bit more of the squeeze besides the hug.  Seems inappropriate to me but so are the funny messages on a few of the "Bachelors" caps done with white tapes.  But nobody seem to mind.  It’s considered cheerful.  Humourous.  Some graduates have slippers on and some have pajamas under their gowns.  Or even worse.
 
Seriously, what do professors who attend this commencement every year think?  They sat on the best seats usually cross-legged.  They come in last and are the first to leave in the hall.  They don’t have any tear-jerking moments unlike the parents throughout the whole ceremony.  They looked calm and cool and get to shake hands with the graduates and be as close to the stage as they want unlike the rest of the audience.  And if you notice, some of them seemed to be engaging in their own little activity.  Could it be a cross-word puzzle?  A sodoku?  Grading papers? Or even knitting?  They don’t even seem to belong to this atmosphere and yet they were treated like royalty in this commencement hall. 
 
Amongst the faculty member who usually have the front "reserved" seats,  some caps are flat and some are not.  Some have their caps on and some never put them on.  All took them off during the National Anthem with the exception of those with their caps pinned to their hair. Some have caps/gown that don’t seem to fit!  In fact, if there were indivdual reality cameras on each faculty member, one can catch a lot of those that has "No Respect" for this "granduerous" ceremony.
 
I, for one, have no respect as far as gown is concerned.  I do not have a tassel on my cap.  My cap (mortarboard) should be a velvet tams, my gown should have its three PhD stripes and I seem to forget my hoods too but nobody notice or know because some people may think maybe mine is just like the newly graduating "Bachelors" with no hoods.  A few faculty members notice the "no colour" but I usually brush their questions off with "I forgot"or "it must’ve been lost", or "Yeah?  Am I supposed to have something like that?" 
 
To tell the truth I am guilty of not attending the NUS one in 1989, one for Hons in 1990, one in Tornoto York U., and two more in University of Rochester.  My brother who believes in Kharma and mediatate often, likes to say "If you don’t eat banana that’re slightly black, in your next life, you’ll be eating only black bananas."  I don’t need to wait for my next life, I’m already suffering the kharma of attending two or three graduation of other people every year because I disregard my very own!  But this sentence, I serve with total respect and total sincererity when seeing and congratulating my students.
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