Thoughts on Graduation
Rita Papazian
Norwalk-Citizen News

There’s  a lull in my life right now. I don't have to go to any more graduations, although I am waiting for my second daughter to finish her writing portfolio so she can receive her master's degree from Rutgers. But who knows when that will be now that baby Calum is here? Hers will be the sixth graduation among my three children. I'm fortunate that they all went on to graduate school.

Also, I think as a reporter I'm beyond covering graduations for local papers. Let's just say I'm burnt out. That is certainly not an easy job. First, you have to find a decent parking space, and then you have to deal with the crowds of jubilant parents and graduates. I remember the year I covered either Brien McMahon or Norwalk High School's commencement. It was Superintendent Ralph Sloan's last year as head of the school system. There I was, trying to grab a quote from him as the graduates were yelling, crying, screaming and hugging one another in a stiflingly hot school lobby. Graduations can be stressful for reporters trying to get succinct quotes from happy graduates.

I never like to tell people where I went to high school, because the name of the town is pretty awful: Hicksville. The funny part is I recently met a fellow graduate of Hicksville High School. It was Lorraine Bracco, the actress who plays Dr. Melfi on the Emmy Award-winning HBO series "The Sopranos." She was doing a book signing for her new memoir, "On The Couch."

She graduated years earler than I did. Even her older brother graduated years earler than I. It was quite embarrassing to tell Bracco the year I graduated. I'll do anything when I'm in my "groupie" mode. She told me her brother Sal went to Hicksville High with Billy Joel. I knew Joel went to my high school, but he didn't graduate. And I know he was about six years behind me. What I never understand is that he keeps getting younger. Now he reportedly is more than six years younger than I. Bracco says it's because he keeps marrying younger women. That could be true.

Anyway, Joel is one of many celebrities who have given addresses at recent commencements. Speaking at Syracuse University, he advised the graduates to do what they love. "Don't do it for security, or status, prestige, money or for crying out loud don't do it for somebody else. Do it for love. Because if you love what you do, you'll always do what you love. And if you're doing what you love, you're going to become very good at it. And this is a country that rewards excellence."

Joel told the graduates that he was receiving his fifth or sixth doctorate that day and he didn't graduate high school. "I went to the college of the road, I guess. I admire you for having the gumption to stick it out. I didn't do it, and sometimes wish I had more of an education in what it is I do."

U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona delivered the commencement address at the New School in Manhattan. He told the graduates, "The world does indeed await you, and humanity is impatient for your service."

Former President Bill Clinton ad-dressed the graduates at Princeton. He encouraged them to engage in the world "locally, nationally and globally." He told them that they'd earned an education that has given them unprecedented personal power and that they live in a time that has given them unprecedented personal power.

New Canaan resident Brian Williams, the NBC evening news anchor, told the graduates of Seton Hall they earned their college education during the turmoil of terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq. Also, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer told the graduates of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to remember the sacrifices of the men and women serving in the Gulf region and of the journalists killed while covering war.

President George Bush delivered the commencement address at Oklahoma State University and told the graduates that they were privileged to live in the world's freest country at one of the most hopeful moments in human history. "Soon you'll leave this university, you'll take your place in our society. And as you do, you'll witness dramatic changes, and these changes will present you with opportunities and choices and great challenges."

Singer and composer Joel really made a lot of sense. It's his Long Island background and maybe even his accent. Graduates high school or college need to base their choices on what they love to do. To paraphrase Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, if you like what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. In other words, if you love something it will never appear to be work or "a job" for you. And as others have said, if you do what you love, the money will follow; don't follow the money. It will find you.


© Copyright 2006 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.