2009 Class Notes

RG Daughter’s college graduation day dawned sunny and warm, the first truly perfect Colorado weather day since winter gripped the mountains months and months ago and seemed as if it would never let go. Tulips and lilies bloomed orange and yellow in the downtown parks. Spicy red geraniums and soft pastel petunias spilled out of their planters, trailing from loft apartment balconies. The endless splashes of magnificent color transformed the downtown masonry into a glittering palate any artist would covet.

“So perfect,” I said more to myself than RG Daughter as we walked our dogs around the block.

“Hmm,” she responded more to the cloudless azure sky than to me.

She was nervous. She was excited. She was sad. She was happy.

In mere hours, she would begin her so-called real life and become a grown up, shedding the moniker of student that she’d worn for 20 years since she was a two-year-old in nursery school. Within a day, she would be alone in a new city starting a new job. Starting fresh.

She was terrified.

“I just don’t want to trip and fall,” she said as we walked with her to meet the other hundreds of gathering graduating seniors bedecked in black caps and gowns. “Really, it’s my biggest fear. So that’s why I’m wearing these,” she said, pointing down at her worn flip flops.

“Hey, I’m wearing mine, too,” I laughed, looking down at my Kino “dress” flip flops. “You won’t trip, I promise.” Not on the stage as she walked across to receive her diploma. Not ever. Not this kid.

On this utterly beautiful day–when the clear air and brilliant light offered the chosen speaker the perfect opportunity to send forth the graduating class of 2009 into the beginning of and the rest of their adult lives with hope and promise–I listened, instead, appalled. Here was a politician, who admitted he’d landed his various wonderful jobs by being in the right place at the right time–including his current job to which he had been appointed rather than elected–droning on and on about how these smart, savvy young adults were entering the worst job market in decades, and how the previous administration was all to blame for everything that this class would not be able to look forward to, and how we were in a war we should never have fought, and blah, blah, blah.

On this day, on this glorious day, this class of 2009 did not need to hear a series of cut-and-pasted, tired campaign lines about an economic reality they already knew first-hand by virtue of rejection letters and “not hiring” signs. No matter your politics, this was not the day to pummel these open minds with negative blame and predictably partisan talking points. It was, as both liberal and conservative parents and students agreed, one of the worst commencement speeches ever amplified across a college quad.

So, RG Daughter, I’ll make my speech to you short and simple:

Uncertain times offer unparalleled opportunities to be creative and daring. Embrace, rather than curse, these times. You are fortunate to have landed a job that is as fun as it will certainly be challenging. I hope you wake up each morning and always look forward to going to a job that hardly feels like work.

Listen hard to your gut, to that inner voice that always tells you the truth as it steers you toward promise and away from trouble. Listen, especially, when this voice tells you exactly what you don’t want to hear.

Everything is possible and everything is ahead of you. No really, everything: the jobs that you will love, the jobs that you will despise; the relationships that will fizzle, the one that will last; the life you can’t imagine living five years from today, the life you live today that is a gift to be celebrated every single day.

Stay creative, stay curious, stay engaged. If you can manage that, you may just find that being a grown-up allows the best days of your life to continue forever.

Know that even if the unlikely should happen and you do trip and fall, I will always be there beside you to help you stand up again. But if the past is a predictor of the future, you will do so all on your own.

I love you, RG Daughter, my best baby girl.






5 responses to “2009 Class Notes”

  1. gabrielle Avatar

    Hi RG, my daughter gradusted on Monday. I hope you don’t mind if I cut and paste your speech to your daughter and send it to my own. The coincidence is that I usually refer to my daughter as ‘my best baby girl’.

  2. Rhonda Avatar

    Well said RG! Congrats to both you and your daughter as she begins this new phase of her life. Take pride in knowing that you have raised a wonderful, intelligent woman and that you have more than prepared her for whatever comes next.

  3. L Avatar

    Hi RG… that was beautiful.

    My “first” best baby girl graduated four years ago, double degree in Archeology and Art History. She’s been out there living that life, some dead ends …lots of good, exciting internships. Right this minute she’s playing in the water in Baja, celebrating the end of one internship and the beginning of another.

    Sorry you guys had such a negative speaker. My second “best baby girl” now ends her second year in high school while California is projecting massive cuts in education. Your replacement speech perked me up …I’ve got to think positive and live those words myself …and keep saying such things to my daughters.

    take care,


  4. JoeInVegas Avatar

    Sounds pretty good, you should have been up there.

  5. formercaligal Avatar

    love your speech…beautiful mom, beautiful daugher