I was tearful at today’s graduation ceremony at Grinnell College, in Iowa, watching my son Tom and his classmates as they prepare to take the next steps in their lives. Tom and his friend Misha seem to be known as the China guys, both intent on going to Beijing when they finish a final semester this autumn. Tom was flippant about some of the speeches – paraphrasing them as, “The future sucks.” I was moved to see many of the students (including Tom) wearing a green ribbon that stands for the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility: “I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.” What an amazing idea, to have graduates go out into the world thinking of that as possible, and something they’ll be admired for.
The main speaker was Angela Davis (David said he only just managed to keep from yelling, “Free Huey”). Also receiving an honorary degree was John Brady Kiesling, who talked about the few chances we have in life to take a moral stand. He got huge applause, and my daughter Rachel was especially thrilled to see him, because his resignation letter prompted her first civic involvement back in 2003, when she was in 9th grade. In fact, she went around school passing out copies to her teachers and to other students.