Lightning for Micronesians
Thoughts on new heroes, old friends, and the remarkable commencement speakers at Dr. Andy's long-ago graduation from college
If “fear is pain arising from the anticipation of evil,” as Aristotle says, then perhaps joy is the gratification arising from the anticipation of a well-earned accomplishment.
I teach at a prominent public university with over 40,000 students. This means that we start graduating students around now (mid-May) and don’t finish until a month later (mid-June). As a parent of three and a potential incidental mentor to 40,000, I continue to be impressed with all these students, so I am grateful to be given an opportunity to celebrate their victories and accomplishments.
This past Saturday, for example, all our UC Davis King School of Law graduates “commenced” their new lives in the next-door Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. I got to know one of them, Alexander Joel Watson (we use middle names when speaking of graduation ceremonies), for he is the son of a high school friend and classmate of mine, one whom I got to lunch with recently for the first time since we were graduating together more than 35 years ago. He bought me avocado toast and introduced me to his lovely wife.
UC Davis is ranked eighth in the nation for offering students excellent social mobility opportunities. I see this as good news not only for our students, but for the communities where our students go on to live, work, and “mobilize.” Having encountered Alex at a number of Black Lives Matter rallies over the last couple years, I am eager to follow the ways that this young lawyer will improve the world.
I learned from his dad that Alex already has a head start in this department. Even though he was impoverished himself during his mostly remotely-taught law school years, Alex nevertheless has been sponsoring a young man (through high school, and now as a new college student) in the Liberian village where he was a Peace Corps volunteer. That same family subsequently named their youngest son “Watson” in his honor. Congratulations to Watson’s family on the new arrival, and to the new Mr. Alex Watson, Esquire!
I send a different sort of congratulations also to one of my fellow Boston University graduates and a best friend from college, Teresa. It seems like just yesterday that Teresa and I were donning our bright red robes to watch then President George Herbert Walker Bush and then French President Francois Mitterrand give commencement addresses on the occasion of the 150th anniversary, or sesquicentennial, of our expensive private research university. (Ted Kennedy and Elie Wiesel were also there, and I would have loved to have heard them both speak again, as I had on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and in BU’s George Sherman Union, respectively.)
Born and raised in Micronesia, Teresa as a college freshman expressed amazement at everyday sights in New England, such as snow. Later she brought her fresh perspectives and penchant for insatiable hilarity (I never feel funnier than around Teresa) to our house on 2454 Tunlaw Road in DC’s Glover Park neighborhood when she secured positions at U.S. PIRG and later, if I remember correctly, the aluminum company Alcoa. She was definitely “going places” at the same time that I was going to just one place in California to study poetry.
Fast forward to the present, and Teresa is visiting Venice. She shared this via social media Saturday morning: “The Viking Sea is a beautiful well-appointed ship with several lounge areas, bars and five places to eat. We spent the afternoon at the pool, played Scrabble before dinner and had a delicious Italian meal. After dinner, we sat on the top deck and watched lightning streak across the sky. And then we took a walk around the ship before heading off to bed.”
I’m so happy for Teresa who is finally getting to realize her (Covid-delayed) dream of a Venetian vacation. Whether we are breathing deeply from the deck of a cruise ship on the Adriatic Sea, watching a presidential helicopter touch down on a baseball field next to the Charles River, or walking across the stage at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, we only get so many opportunities to experience actual or figurative lightning as it streaks across our skies. I commemorate the joy inherent in these accomplishments, I gratefully celebrate life-long friendships, and I wish for all our UC Davis graduates that they realize great merit from their committed years of curiosity, ingenuity, and hard work.
I hope you get to see this week’s Pub Quiz. It has questions on topics raised above, as well as the following: Tyranny, Apple products, curiosities, electric utilities, critical race theories, warriors, faraway countries, sovereign poets, common compounds, spices, populated countries, Star Wars characters, rivers and creeks, road rage, novelistic sea voyages, pop musicians, tragic moms, bleak crashers, port cities, matriarchs, stamp acts, meanings of stuffing, woke OGs, nautical terms, mononyms and duonyms, iconic Americans, four-alarm fires, current events, and Shakespeare.
Thanks to all the supporters on Patreon who make all this happen, especially the Outside Agitators, the Original Vincibles, and Quizimodo. Some team captains who pledge for their entire team. I do offer Pub Quizzes for special occasions, so please reach out to me if you are interested in that!
P.S. Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:
Sports. Who is the only player in NFL history with more than 20,000 receiving yards?
Science: Space Exploration. Divisible by six, what is the number of people who have walked on the moon?
Great Americans. A Yolo County judge named Tim, the author of Running for Judge, shares a last name with what season?
P.S. Please do join us for Poetry Night this Thursday at 7: Zinzi Clemmons and Mangai Arumugam feature at that hour on Thursday, May 19th at the Natsoulas Gallery in Davis.