Sunday, April 24, 2005

Commencement wisdom in SW Virginia?

I wish Yogi Berra was speaking a commencement near the Salt Lick. In 1996 he told graduates of Montclair State University to, "First, never give up, because it's never over till it's over. Second, during the years ahead, when you come to a fork in the road, take it. Third, don't always follow the crowd, because nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded. Fourth, stay alert. You can observe a lot by watching. Fifth, and last, remember that whatever you do in life, 90 percent of it is half mental."

I doubt we'll hear that kind of wisdom from speakers at one of the many commencements in Southwest Virginia this Spring (see below). Probably the only speaker at a nearby college I'd like to hear is novelist Tom Wolfe at his alma mater, Washington and Lee, on June 2. I heard him speak at Virginia Tech some years ago and he held that room in the palm of his hand.

On May 7, Senator John Warner is speaking at Ferrum College and Representative Rick Boucher is speaking at Radford U., on the same day and time. Interesting -- a Senator out in the sticks at a college and a Representative in town at a university. Maybe Ferrum told Warner they'd conduct the annual coon dog swim across the campus pond early this year. Heck, THAT is something to see!

Warner and Boucher might offer golden thoughts, but I doubt it. I've heard both speak and it's dry stuff, in spite of the fact that they've lived through historic events and stood at the center of power for decades. Neither is much of an emoter or inspirer, though Warner sometimes veers perilously close to a Foghorn Leghorn impersonation. Boucher, on the other hand, reminds me of Mr. Beaver in Winnie the Pooh. (I wrote a letter to the editor once protesting one of Boucher's votes and within a week got a letter from his office reiterating, very nicely, his position on the issues and saying he hoped we could work together for SW Virginia's future. Now THAT is organization and constituent "service." I'm a nobody, but Boucher's office still went to the trouble of finding my address.) You can be pretty sure both will address living in a new world created by terrorism and WMDs. And they'll probably throw in thoughts on "change" and "technology," and tell the graduates the world's future is now their burden.

It might be worth a drive down to Emory and Henry's commencement on May 14. For one thing, it'd be good to get a look at a student body screwy enough to demonstrate against the school mascot -- The Wasp -- because it "represented White Anglo Saxony hegemony." But also, the commencement speaker is alum J. Michael Austin, "international opera singer and member of the Stuttgart, Germany, Opera Company." I bet he'll be entertaining; after all, that's his job. He better be if they flew him all the way from Deutschland.

Until the Roanoke Times printed the list, I hadn't realized we have so many colleges down here (though it looks like they forgot the most euphonic -- Sweet Briar College, and included UVA, which is clearly not in SW Virginia. Here's the list).
Appalachian School of Law, Grundy
Bluefield College, Bluefield
Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, clifton Forge
ECPI Technical College, Roanoke
Emory and Henry College, Emory
Ferrum College, Ferrum
Hollins University, Roanoke County
Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Roanoke
Liberty University, Lynchburg
Lynchburg College, Lynchburg
National College of Business and Technology, Salem
New River Community College, Dublin
Patrick Henry Community College, Martinsville
Randolph-Macon Woman's College, Lynchburg
Roanoke College, Salem
Southern Virginia University, Buena Vista
University of Virginia, Charlottesville
University of Virginia's College at Wise, Wise
Virginia Military Institute
Virginia Tech
Virginia Western Community College, Roanoke
Washington and Lee University, Lexington
Wytheville Community College, Wytheville