By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Graduation – kids, loving parents, immigrants and so forth

Under picture-perfect fresh air and blue skies in the middle of Manhattan that reminded me how much progress we have made cleaning up our air, I attended my daughter's graduation from Columbia College last week. Some random impressions:

1) Kids these days love their parents. I am associated with one of the Harvard undergraduate houses, and I occasionally eat lunch there, plopping myself down with a random group of students and requesting permission just to listen in. I have been really surprised by how often the students' talk involves citing the views of their parents as evidence for something they should or shouldn't do – "My mom thinks that I should …" or "My dad never likes to ..." At Columbia's graduation, the president, early in the ceremony, asked for recognition of "The people who truly made this day possible, your parents or families," which occasioned a long round of applause, the longest round of applause during the entire ceremony. When I graduated from college, I am virtually certain that no such recognition was even requested, and, if it had been, it would have gotten at best prefunctory applause and conceivably even some boos.

2) Immigrants really are transforming American life. Chinese, Indian and Korean kids (especially), along with Latinos and students from the Muslim world, were very prominent among the graduating seniors. And a disproportionate number of students graduating summa cum laude were Asians or Asian immigrants. This is a real source of renewal and strength for our country. We don't just have a lot of immigrants; we have a lot of very successful immigrants.

3) Girls rule. Both the valedictorian and the salutatorian were women.

In a somewhat strange tradition, Columbia's president, rather than an outside speaker, gives the commencement address. Lee Bollinger, a first amendment scholar, spoke about the future of the press, to the frequent applause of students graduating from the Columbia Journalism School. He seemed to endorse, or at least suggest consideration of, an idea that has begun to emerge in these discussions – namely, some sort of general government subsidy for the media (something that already exists in the U.K. with the BBC and in Sweden, which provides subsidies to newspapers based on circulation).

Posted by Steve Kelman on May 26, 2009 at 12:08 PM


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