Monday, May 19, 2014

Commencing with some advice for grads

I was reminded again this weekend of one of the great laments of my life.

I did not walk with my graduating class at my college commencement.

I graduated in August, at the end of the summer session, after I had finished an internship at The Denver Post. I was done the internship and all my classes, but the summer commencement for the Class of 1978 from the Unviversity of Colorado was more than a week away. That's when I made one of the worse decisions of my life. I put all my earthly belongings in the back of a pickup truck and pointed it east on I-70. I gave the school a forwarding address where they could send my diploma noting that I earned a bachelor's in journalism, while at the same time flunking one of my very first tests of post-college life. I should have stayed and walked. I had the rest of my life in front of me, but for some reason I was incredibly eager to get back to Oxford, Pa. So instead of walking with my fellow grads, I again drove across the U.S., regretting the decision a little more with every miles. There is not a day that goes by that I don't regret that foolish decision. I am of course reminded of it at this time of the year.

Commencements have been in the news lately, in part because so many of them have been embroiled in controversy surrounding their speakers.

Amazingly, Condoleeza Rice decided to bow out of a scheduled appearance at Rutgers after some faculty and students objected.

I still find that a little hard to believe. Not that she demurred, but that the small-minded faculty and students made such a fuss over her appearance.

They objected to her work in the run-up to the Iraq War when she served as President George W. Bush's secretary of state.

My feelings on this are very much the same as they are for the former president. I don't agree with many things that he did. But I think we too often lose respect for the office he held. The man was president, for God's sake. Too many people in their zeal to denigrate Bush also managed to smear the office he held.

Much the same goes for the treatment Rice received from the professors and students at Rutgers. So much for the freedom of speech they are always carping about. I guess those rights are reserved for those who hold the same beliefs as you do.

That's one of the reason I was heartened by what happened yesterday at Haverford College's commencement.

William G. Bowen, a former president of Princeton, took both the school and students to task for the uporoar that led another featured speaker, former Berkeley chancellor Robert J. Birgenau, to step down. Good for him.

But neither of these is my favorite commencement story from the weekend.

That honor is reserved for an old friend.

My kids still don't believe me when I point to the smiling face on those huge billboards and claim Ed Herr among my friends.

That's right, the president of Herr's potato chips was a classmate, Oxford Area High School Class of '73. We played football together. Actually, my kids don't believe I played football either.

But what really sends them reeling is my stories of how Ed used to snag us some hot chips as they came out of the oven in what clearly back then was a much smaller operation at Herr's.

I "love" what Ed had to say to the grads this weekend at Immaculata out in Chester County.

"Love people like crazy," Herr told those collecting diplomas.

Good advice, Ed.

I wish someone would have told the kids at Haverford and Rutgers that.

And this: Life is hard. You don't always get to make the rules. And things don't always go your way.

A lot of things have not gone my way since those days when Ed Herr and I competed for the quarterback position at Oxford High.

Ed's done a little better than me.

He's the face of Herr foods. I'm the face of the Daily Times.

Now maybe people will understand when I say this is a face that was made for the newspaper.

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