Tuesday, May 28
5:30 P.M. – 10:30 P.M.
San Francisco Giants Stadium at 24 Willie Mays Plaza
Life has important days of ritual, celebration, tradition and transition. College graduation is one of those days. Often it is young adults getting one last day to muse over their childhoods and head off into the full-on adult world. Many glad that all the formal education is finally over, eager for the next phase of life to begin. On Tuesday, May 28, 2019 was the San Francisco State University Commencement.
The day was partly cloudy and a strong wind blew out of the northwest. Looking out over the San Francisco Bay from Section 314 on the third deck you could see the smog blanketing the East Bay. The Port of Oakland, with those massive white cranes ready to unload container ships, visible through the mist. Barges and container ships at anchor going nowhere.
Our party of four ate ballpark food as the seagulls darted over the center-field, perhaps trying to get a cue for the timing of the seventh inning stretch. Confused, they noticed that no one was adjusting their jock straps or throwing baseballs around and soon left for more exciting territory.
The National Anthem, sung by a soprano in the music department, ending on a high screaming wale to great applause – SFSU President Les Wong introduction. speeches, acknowledgements. President’s Metals, a Posthumous Award and Honorary Doctorate, some of the people either dead or too sick and old to attend. Great, dedicated and fine people for sure. Graduate Hood recipients, the naming of the various departments (SFSU has a noted College of Ethnic Studies created after a long strike in the late 1960’s), a few other formalities and then the commencement address.
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives gave the commencement address. Earlier, during much of the ceremony you could see her in the front row on stage listening. She was also going over her notes and her papers blew and flapped in the wind. An experienced speaker, she gave a rather cautious address, calling on the young people to be courageous and to follow their dreams. That they are the future. The typist hurriedly transcribing her every word as best as possible made for some humorous typos and outcomes, all appearing as captions on the large screen. Pelosi brought up fighting for health care and mentioned her concern over the income inequalities in our society but gave no solutions or mentioned any causes. More “courage.” Near the end she pulled the clever political maneuver of quoting someone from the other party, Ronald Reagan, and an address he did stating the obvious – that the United States is a country of immigrants and how this is who we are and it is a good thing. A brilliant maneuver considering the makeup of SFSU. The Democrats should dig up more Ronald Reagan speeches and point out the irony of our times and the hypocrisy of the Republican Party. Somewhere along the way she talked about San Francisco and it’s namesake, Saint Francis, his affinity for nature and the meaning of prayer. I do not doubt her faith but I never took Nancy Pelosi to be a very religious person, and it seems a bit odd for someone with so much power to reveal a tendency to resort to prayer as a practical solution to real problems. But she is a “thinking” Catholic, having been raised in parochial schools and surely understands the complexities of the “real” world. Life’s paradoxes and ironies do not phase her.
“There is nothing more important than appearing to be religious.”
― Niccolò Machiavelli
A long commencement parade where the traditional tunes were piped in on the stadium speakers – Pomp and Circumstance, Mozart in G, John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever. Many tunes sounding oddly familiar but who’s titles are a mystery.
The epic Diploma Procession and like the piped in music, a modern touch. Four cameras and split screen shots up on the mega-monitor. No names announced but plenty of comic relief as many of the new graduates did dances and jigs and clever silly stunts. A lot of joy.
Life goes on. These youngsters are the future.