Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Shirt reads "Class of 2015"
A recent cover of The New Yorker magazine caught my attention and caused me to have a few memories.  In one of those things that happen, I found it difficult to do the research I expected; specifically, to chronicle this year’s Commencement Addresses made by President Obama and offer an opinion as to the why and where he chose those opportunities.  Even more specifically, what he addressed at Howard University and this year’s Military Academy.

I did find and listen to the address he made at Howard.

Howard was the first college started to offer college-level education to what were then called Negros.  It was founded only two years after the end of the Civil War and has enjoyed a stellar alumni including the first Black Nobel Prize winner and first Federal judge.  Although he mentioned the diversity of the present University, and a glimpse of the crowd showe3d several white faces, I felt he missed an opportunity to stress that, choosing rather to show how the graduating class of 2016 was in a position to effect change better than any preceding class.

My very white, Boston-suburban-raised nephew is a graduate of Howard’s Dental School.  He has always seemed proud to be so-distinguished.

The most positive message that the President made was an appeal for the graduates to vote.  Only 25% of college students voted in the mind-term election of 2014 and slight less than half that number voted in the Presidential election of 2012.   While not being negative about reaction groups like Black Lives Matter, he did point out that all positive change requires compromise and a strategy, rather than a reaction.

Sometimes I think we want this more than he does.
Coincidently, as Salutatorian of my high school class, I was able to also give an address, which opportunity I used to reflect on the sacrifices made by our parents in getting us through high school and, in my case, fairly well prepared for college.  Subsequently I was able to make several similar speeches during my 26 years in the service, the major one being my Change-of-Command speech from El Toro Marine Air Station where I was the XO and later CO.  I chose the locale to compare the people who had supported me to the crops we saw all about us: oranges, which grow year-round and require very little care, others to the strawberries, fragile and sweet, the picking of which is an investment in the value other people reap.  And finally, the artichokes, which require several years care before they bear fruit, and the fruit itself generally of a class my father always distrusted; namely, any food where there is more left when you finish than when you stat.  People who require that care and patience are a special and long-remembered class.

I had a friend who was in attendance that day tell me 10 years later, it was the most memorable speech he had ever heard.

So, I am very tolerant with Commencement Addresses and wouldn’t criticize either the choice of school or subject matter and I rather enjoyed the 45-minute presentation by the President at Howard.  I had hope for You Tube to have the one at the military academy, which I believe was the Air Force Academy.  My recollection is that one phrase he used was that this graduating class was the first in twenty years that would not have to go to Afghanistan or Iraq.  Ironically, within a week he sent 1500 service personnel to Iraq.

NPR has a sociologist who reports regularly on studies I find interesting.  A recent one explored why some people have more problems with change than others.  Having just lost the third job of my career when an M&A made me redundant, I’ll explain why I seem to have adapted well and why.


I hope you will join me.

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