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Graduation pledges

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.

3 thoughts on “Graduation pledges

  1. Wow green ribbons are a great idea! More people should know about this.

  2. I am in Shanghai for a crazy busy business trip, but I believe that I should send my congratulations on Tom’s wonderful graduation.
    It is really a great idea that Tom will go to Beijing to creat a new and hopeful future.I love this boy, and I believe most Chinese will love this boy.

  3. I was at that graduation too, for my daughter. Here’s what I learned from Angela Davis: For the right cause (and we’re all free to define what’s right), all actions are justified, even murder. John Brown was her example, since for obvious reasons she can’t talk about her personal situation. Coldest thing I ever heard. If I took her philosophy seriously, I could kill anyone I wanted too, wherever, whenever, like the characters on Sopranos. She is the definition of hubris.

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