Graduation usually refers to the final day of High School or College/place of higher learning. You get a paper to certify that you have completed it. Done. Finito. There is a party afterwards. Usually does not help a bit to get a job anymore ...

Version one: to say "I have graduated" means that I have completed sufficient classes/requirements to have finished some course of study and be recognized as knowing certain things (these things dependent on what level of education one is graduating from).

Version two: to say "I have graduated" means that you have actually gone through the ceremony with the cap and gown and the lines of people and various friends and family watching and constantly taking photos.

It is version two that I wish to talk about. Over the years I have had friends who refused to go to the ceremony of graduation. It was stupid, self-congratulatory and time consuming. Everyone knows you've finished the study. What is the point of the formal ceremony?

I graduated from college in May 2000, and my mother had a reason why I was going through the ritual of walking across the stage. When I complained about all the arrangements being made and the family flying into town she said, "You don't really think graduation is for you, do you?" Her point was that graduation was for the various people in my life who had invested in my education, either through time or treasure. It was their opportunity to verify that their investment had paid off and to celebrate the completion of a project. Anyone who has a degree, especially at the college level, ought to recognize that it is not merely the student's effort that gets him/her through the program. It is a cooperative effort of several people: the other students who form the study group, the spouse that works so the student can eat, the parent paying tuition, the professor offering his time, the friends providing moral support.

Graduation, the ritual, is a formal opportunity to say thank you to all these sources. Certainly there are some people who make it through on their own labors, but for most of us, we owe our success to others in some measure.

It isn't as if the ceremony is terrible. Often there is a good speaker (provided your school has worked to make it so). There's a certain pride at having all these people there for your triumph. And you get to watch your friends walk across the stage as they graduate with you.

This is graduation.

November 11th, 2008 was a very notable day in my life. It was a cool autumn day at Fort Knox, Kentucky, an atmosphere of happiness is all too present. There are four platoons of basic trainees standing in formation in front of the barracks they've lived in for about two months, and their drill sergeants actually have what may be smiles on their faces. I remember my drill sergeants that day, they were proud of us. They shook our hands and told us "congratulations, you're a soldier now". I swelled with pride, my dress greens were perfect, and my beret was formed to emphasize my facial features. I was prouder this day than I was when I graduated high school earlier that year, I didn't even attend my high school graduation ceremony.

Lined up behind the curtains of the stage we stood and waited to be presented with our certificates. We each walked up onto the stage, stated our rank, our name, and our hometown, and then marched off stage to take a seat in the auditorium. After everybody was done being introduced we all stood and waited to sing. We sang the Army song and the Armor Center March (I even remember some of it, though I don't think I can remember enough to sing it like I did that day).

After we were released from the auditorium, those who had family to witness the graduation went to spend just a few more minutes with their families, mine wasn't there, of course. I picked up my bags and waited in my platoon area, our drill sergeants wanted to give us a speech before they saw us off.

After they gave us a speech, shook our hands, and gave us some advice (mine was "You've got some good discipline, Martorano, don't lose it") we boarded our buses off to our AIT for further training, and thus ended the proudest day of my life.

The first thing everyone said when they arrived at the graduation party I was throwing for my students was, “Do you know that your next door neighbor is the former Prime Minister of Thailand?”

I’d nod and smile, inviting them in to the massive stone mansion my company was leasing during my stay in Bangkok.

The structure itself looked like a hyper-scaled granite sculpture. One could view the mansion through the heavy wrought iron gate built into the fifteen-foot high concrete wall. Directly across the street, a family in a small run-down wooden house ran a restaurant on their front porch. The contrast between the haves and have-nots could be viewed in the microcosm of a single address.

The old woman at the hovel did know how to cook a Thai meal worthy of any fancy American restaurant, and the different pungent meals beckoned with an olfactory come-hither that was hard to ignore. I ate there four times a week, after making it clear that I required meals that were m̀ p̄hĕd, or not spicy. I placed an order for a lot of food for my party, and after their youngest daughter translated what I needed, they were ecstatic. I always tipped very well and treated them with respect.

As my guests arrived, I gathered the class of twelve students together to give them a tour of the property. My live-in maid took care of the food, beer, and soft drink deliveries.

Our first stop was the back yard, which was about the size of a football field. All around the wall, the property owner planted different fruit trees. The bananas, pineapples, coconuts, apples, and oranges were all ready to be picked, their scents swirling together in a fruit cocktail that left a tangy sensation on the tongue.

“This is bigger than my family’s farm,” said Sam, who graduated third in the class, qualifying him to be a shift supervisor with a bump in pay. “I brought a soccer ball, can we play later?”

I smiled. “Sure, after the rest of the tour.”

The heavily carved 12-foot tall teak doors opened to the foyer. The floor gleamed with Italian marble tiles, which transitioned into a solid dark teakwood floor that spread out on the lower floor of the building. My maid, Moola, hired her brother to polish the floor every week. I never understood “shine a foot thick” until I saw how those floors glowed.

A large, thick set of three leather couches dominated the living room area. Built into the ceiling, a commercial video projector provided a widescreen window to the rest of the world beyond the borders of Thailand. Moola set out some chips and dip, plus several platters of meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Continuing on, I directed the tour to the American-style kitchen. Again, Moola provided several coolers of iced sodas, beer, and other refreshments. Most of the graduates made a pit stop to pick up a drink and some sandwiches that Moola had just finished assembling. I could hear the sizzling crackle of a wok in the second Thai-style kitchen. Moola’s famous fried rice with fresh pineapple wafted into the rest of the house, making several stomachs rumble. The large dining table had to be sturdy to hold the weight of the food the neighbors had provided.

This was not the place to be if one was on a diet.

The only area left was the five bedrooms upstairs, so I just described them quickly and we all swarmed over the banquet.

Several hours later, after a quick pick-up game of soccer in the yard and consuming enough food until everyone’s stomach was fit to burst, we sat around on the back porch, sipping drinks and swatting the ever-present mosquitos.

It was time to announce who had the highest scores in the class. One of the older graduates came in second, and also qualified as a shift supervisor. The top person in the class also happened to be the only woman. Supisri had a Master’s degree and achieved a perfect score. In accordance with the company directives, she was the manager of the entire group.

This didn’t sit well with some of her classmates, since Thailand is a very paternal society. I pointed out her accomplishments, and after I broke out the liquor, the humor returned to the party. They all congratulated her, and I reminded Supisri that she deserved the position because of her hard work.

Moola lit the outdoor fireplace to drive off the mosquitos, and the smell of wood smoke made everyone feel relaxed. Even Moola finally sat down and rested her feet.

The entire graduating class of 1998 became the first group of technicians who would be running the Bangkok SkyTrain, the new elevated train system. While they waited for taxis to take them home, I talked about having the opportunity to live in such a luxurious mansion was a nice experience, but it didn’t compare to having a family present. They were the lucky ones. I would be leaving to see my family in eight months. That made the mansion a pretty building, not my home. And home is where the heart is.

Iron Noder 2017

Grad"u*a"tion (?), n. [LL. graduatio promotion to a degree: cf. F. graduation division into degrees.]


The act of graduating, or the state of being graduated; as, graduation of a scale; graduation at a college; graduation in color; graduation by evaporation; the graduation of a bird's tail, etc.


The marks on an instrument or vessel to indicate degrees or quantity; a scale.


The exposure of a liquid in large surfaces to the air, so as to hasten its evaporation.


© Webster 1913.

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