I’m writing this as I sit at the airport on my way back to DC. I was unsuccessful in my attempts to standby for two previous flights, so I guess I’m really supposed to be in this one.
The Miami Dade College commencement—the Under Secretary keynoted the ceremony at the College’s InterAmerican campus—was pretty exhilarating. Most of the processional went through the middle of a major thoroughfare, so the police had to temporarily close off roads while the graduates, the Stage Party (and I) walked seven city blocks to the county auditorium where the event was being held. It was hot. And I don’t envy everyone else who I’m sure was sweltering under their medieval robes.
But it was pretty damn inspiring to see people get out of the cars to cheer and honk their horns in celebration for the graduates. Passersby stopped and cheered loudly. People got out on their balconies and waved. For a moment, it felt like we were walking a parade route at a small town on the Fourth of July. I couldn’t have been prouder to witness this entire community—mostly made up of minorities—come together to celebrate the successes of their students.
I kind of wish more of our colleges and universities could engage their communities in the same way. As it stands, there are plenty of college towns out there where residents in the community breathe a collective sigh of relief when the crazy college students vacate their party houses and dens of iniquity for the summer.
The “public good” is a role American higher education is pretty uneven in fulfilling. It’s just pretty amazing to see an entire community come together to remind their local community college that they are as much part of the students’ lives as the college’s faculty and staff.