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A Stone's throw: Graduations


Betty Stone



There may never be in my life a time when I set any kind of record; but, if there were, it would probably be last week. Am I not at least in the running when I say that I had, among my grandchildren, four graduations in different cities within nine days, and I went to three of them? 


It was an adventure that had to be choreographed as meticulously as any ballet, and it lasted more a week. The cities were widely separated. Dallas, St. Louis and Atlanta were doable; Washington we missed. (The Washington grandson was getting a master's degree at Georgetown. We had already been to his baccalaureate graduation, so we did not feel guilty about missing this one. A favorite cousin from that area stood in for the parents.) Even so, getting to the others was a feat. 


I have grand twins. One graduated from Washington University in St. Louis at 9 a.m. on a Friday. The other graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas at 9 a.m. Saturday. It was a nightmare that had haunted their parents since the day the boys matriculated. While we were ever mindful of and grateful for their good fortune in being able to attend the schools of their choice, commemorating their graduations took a bit of doing. Obviously the parents had to charter a plane to get to both. That is how I got to tag along. 


Then as soon as I got home, I had to repack and drive to Atlanta for the high school graduation of my youngest granddaughter, their cousin. Whew! 


All of it was more than a little frantic, I will admit, but it made me realize all over again how blessed I have been with grandchildren. 


Mother Nature was in a bad mood in St. Louis, where WashU had scheduled activities outdoors on its beautiful green area. Plan B was to go inside only in the event of violent weather, so we toughed it out with temperatures 10-15 degrees below normal. We shivered through seven or eight speeches altogether. Some people bought blankets from the book store. Some took refuge in parked cars. (Me!) But we got the seniors duly graduated and celebrated. 


SMU kindly conducted ceremonies indoors. It is always a treat to be in Dallas, anyway. It is a stylish city. We had an extra day there Sunday. Some of our party went to a Rangers game, but my daughter and I toured the new George W. Bush library, named "43," on the SMU campus. In his retirement, President Bush has taken up painting, and it was fascinating to me, a wannabe artist, to see his portraits of many world leaders with whom he had dealt while in office. A little bit rough in style, the paintings capture their characters and personalities dramatically. Putin, especially, was something to see, perhaps a comment on international relations. 


With all the commencement ceremonies I have heard a lot of speeches. They ranged widely in content and style. St. Louis Cardinal manager Tony La Russa spoke at Washington University. Almost immediately afterward he left the Cardinals, but he still belonged to St. Louis when he spoke. 


Mike Rawlings, the mayor of Dallas, spoke at SMU. I like his exhortation to dream no small dreams and to ask yourself whom and what you choose to love, to believe in yourself even when no one else does. 


At the other end of the spectrum was the salutatory address at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, Ga., for a huge graduating class of 549, with 207 honor graduates. ( I am happy to say my granddaughter was one.) I was somewhat taken aback, however, when one of the shining examples of academic achievement in the class called on her classmates to "go out there and kick butt." What have we come to?


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


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