By Mary Anna Violi |@Mary Anna Violi
Next month heralds once more my return to my alma mater, Indiana University Bloomington, for an event that merits pride and happiness: My daughter’s graduation. She will be awarded her B.A. degrees in Journalism and Classical Studies, and her minor in Art History. She will walk Commencement that morning, as will my darling nephew Daniel that afternoon on the same campus. Our family joins them for receptions for at their respective schools the night before. The next day they will don their cap and gown, crimson stole, and fasten the tassels of their schools to their mortar boards.
No doubt I shall shed tears of joy at their academic achievements.
When I graduated in 1976 from the aforementioned university, I didn’t walk Commencement. Having officially graduated in August, I would have had to wait until either December or the following May for Commencement. The wait, coupled with graduating with 4,0000 other soon-to-be-former students, held little charm for me. My parents were not college graduates, yet three of my mother’s brothers obtained their M.D. degrees from the IU School of Medicine, another brother had a degree in Business from IU, and still another was a Purdue Engineering graduate. It wasn’t that Mama refused to go to college; it was simply that her family with nine children was cash poor.
In short, my parents didn’t push me to attend my Commencement. My brother, however, had other ideas. Five years younger than I, when the time came for his IU graduation, we witnessed his Commencement and celebrated with him. In those years, it was I who colored outside the lines, and my brother who very much colored within those lines. I was the risk-taker; he followed a more conservative path. Perhaps it reflected my writing, literary, and musical pursuits that contrasted with his economics and business ones. Whatever it was in the ‘70’s, the fact remains that I elected not to walk Commencement, he did.
Having grown up in the 1960’s and having come of age in the 1970’s, our culture was different: The racial riots burned metropolises nationwide, urban terrorism terrorized city-dwellers, the women’s movement left gender roles confused, the Sexual Revolution condoned random sex, and the Vietnam War broke everyone’s heart. My daughter has come of age in a 21st century cultural landscape of economic chaos, crippling college debt, a declining job market for college graduates, and gratuitous violence. She stands as my hope for a better future. You bet I will be there to cheer her on as she graduates in May. I applaud her pending law school endeavors, passion, fervor, intellect, and compassion. Not only is she is the light of my life, her luminous vision wants to make this a better world. I remember the feel of that inner fire, that smoldering passion of those undergraduate and graduate years at my alma mater. I know that my daughter will shine her light too, with her IU degrees in hand.
Ciao for now.