Finally! Today's the last day of school for my girl. The end of third grade isn't actually a graduation, but her grandmother gave her the mortarboard deely boppers, so of course she had to wear them to school. Goofball.
This time of year, there's always a lot of blather about commencement speeches and what messages they send and "everyone is wonderful" (except for the guy at the high school graduation who went viral with the "you are not special" speech. The speaker at my own college graduation - on a beautiful June day 30 years ago - was Maya Angelou. I can't find her address online - but it riffed on her poem "Phenomenal Women".
I’m a woman
All anyone remembers about it is the phenomenal part - we are indeed phenomenal, each and every one of us (and you too). Be yourself, be phenomenal. Oddly enough though, when you actually read the poem, it's kind of all about her looks - she's not pretty, yet men are drawn to her, based on some inner light. She's not phenomenal for the things she does, the words she speaks, the life she leads:
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
Yes, joy in the feet is a wonderful thing but that's not all there is.
Last month, the commencement address at my alma mater was by Melissa Harris-Perry - Tulane University professor of political science, author, Nation columnist, MSNBC host, and "nerdland" icon.
Her charge to the graduates was far more provocative - and, dare I say, useful - than most:
Be ignorant - you do not know everything, and nor should you be expected to.
Be silent - because there are times when one must listen, and thinking before speaking is always a good idea.
Be thick - commitment and sturdiness will stand you in good stead, and besides "Thin women look great in bikinis. Thick women look terrific in history books."
My girl is finding her way, starting to assess her peers, navigating the rocky social straits, losing herself in books, and I'm sure she'll turn out to be a phenomenal woman. But I'm going to add silent, ignorant and thick to the agenda.