We would imagine that, for a first-time attendee at a College Graduation, it might seem puzzling to note that the event’s sole dedicated purpose, to commemorate and officially confirm the completion, by students, of the four- year college course, is officially referred to as a “commencement.”  The word, “commencement,” in every other context, acceptably, refers to the start [not the completion] of something.  [ N.B. The latter term applies to the ceremonial tribute, while, it seems, the word, “graduation” denotes the officially completed status of the student’s curriculum].

The first-time attendee, self- consciously, restrains himself from commenting on this apparent paradox, but is required to do so, necessarily, only for a relatively brief period of time. The Dean, or some other dignitary, in short order, will predictably appear at the podium to express, over the public address system, [it has, by its traditional iteration, become almost trite] that the word “commencement,” has reference to the beginning of the graduates’ respective lifetime of freedom and opportunity, to continue their study and to pursue further knowledge. Would that this oft- repeated declaration was true.

Considering the graduates’ young age and present celebratory state of mind, it is conceivable that the graduates did not even apprehend the subject statement at all; they, understandably, have other thoughts in mind viz., the recreational possibilities of summer, travel, internment and jobs, possibly, marriage or other timely subjects. In our experience, the possibility that the the graduate is actually considering any future course of elective study is indeed, seriously problematic. The University experience has habituated the student to practical considerations, such as, formal registration, instruction, course credits, quantum of didactic study, perhaps the co- registration of a desired acquaintance, as previous criteria for his choice of curriculum.

These considerations will have absolutely, no relevance, at all after the graduation ceremony is completed. Considerations of family and job, are at such stage, relevant matters of prime concern, and appropriately, deserve the major part of his attention and thought. At some point in the future, as his life proceeds, however, he will have the opportunity to elect to pursue personal fulfillment, in the “commencement” of study of, or participation in, a subject matter; one unrelated to the necessary, mundane, and often challenging, considerations of family and career. As a result of making such an elective choice, he could find himself enabled, conveniently, to maintain his self-identity and true persona, while simultaneously fulfilling his expected responsibilities to family and career.

In many of our writings, wherever relevant and possible, we have stressed the need for personal enrichment in the pursuit of life’s potentially aspirational goals of personal growth and self-fulfillment. They are capable of accomplishment, as possible, by engaging in activities, and pursuing interests, which, in addition to being personally enjoyable, offer the valuable potential to promote one’s mature understanding of himself and his environment. Life, in such event, would be fuller, richer and more satisfying.

Inarguably more valuable than diplomas, are the personal realization of one’s lifetime self-fulfillment, and thereby the realization of happiness.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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