I am officially a candidate for the Bachelor of Arts from Loyola University of Chicago. And it sure feels good. This weekend was graduation weekend for College of the Arts and Sciences students. Many of my friends joined me in finishing their undergraduate careers at Loyola. Here is a post that tries to summarize our commencement ceremony:
The forecast for the Rogers Park neighborhood called for cloudy skies on Friday, May 13. But noonday sunshine proved local weatherpersons wrong during the College of Arts commencement ceremony at Loyola University Chicago. Some five thousand people gathered in the Gentile Center---mainly spectators sitting in the stands cheering on the students sitting on the basketball court slated to receive undergraduate degrees from Loyola.
Immediately following the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, a small bird (who must have snuck into the arena without showing his ticket at the door) soared above the heads of the students. It was very apropos on a day where students are metaphorically released from the years of tests and exams and paper writing.
The undergraduates, all from the College of Arts and Sciences but receiving candidacy for a Bachelor of Arts, came from a variety of cities, states and even countries. Michele Eken, a Cameroon native, was fortunate to be able to spend the graduation weekend with her parents who flew in for the ceremony. Her facebook message for fellow graduates read, "Congrats to all my fellow graduates no matter where you are and how you chose to celebrate!!!! we did it!!" Michele plans to attend the University of Chicago law school in the fall.
Lawrence Tyrone Williams, a political science major from California, offered the student address. In both delivery and appearance, Williams resembled a young confident Barack Obama. Several students sent text messages to friends asking if indeed Obama had been invited to speak. Students may very well be casting a vote for Williams in the future if he continues to polish his political savvy.
Dr. Kevin Bales, president and co-founder of Free the Slaves, the US sister organization of Anti-Slavery International, was conferred the honorary degree and addressed the crowd. In his speech, Bales discussed some of the startling statistics in regards to modern slavery. For instance, 27 million people are currently enslaved. However, Bales managed to provide the students with a sense that their generation could be the one that works to eradicate slavery for good.
Loyola University prides itself on providing students an education that opens young peoples eyes to injustice while also providing a place to brainstorm ways to bring about a more humane world. The institution seeks to offer students a "faith that does justice," regardless of the faith tradition in which the student comes from or subscribes to. The selection of Bales as speaker promoted Loyola's stated values. Over a dozen students took an opportunity to make a political statement with the top of their graduations caps. Over a dozen students wrote sayings such as, “Do I look Illegal?” on the top of their graduation caps in protest of Arizona’s recent controversial laws which seek to crackdown on the amount of illegal immigrants living in that state.
As students walked across the stage, their names announced, some members of the crowd could not help but vocally show support for the graduating loved one. A father screamed “that’s my daughter!” when his child's name was announced, drawing laughter from people in the arena.
Reverend Father Michael Garanzini concluded the ceremony with a traditional prayer for graduating students. As students were reminded several times during the graduation ceremony, now is their time to put their four year Jesuit education into action. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, the religious order who established Loyola University, described the mission of followers in this way: they are called to “go forth and set the world on fire.”
Amidst the anxiety of paying off student loans and sailing the uncertainty of an economy still struggling to reclaim itself among the world market, students might find some hope in Ignatius’ words of wisdom. Fortunately, the new graduates have almost five thousand spectators who are cheering them on along the way, and one soaring bird encouraging them to take flight.
peace and with love,
your friend bob : )