Monday, May 15, 2006

"Hello, Clarice"

On the traditional date of the Third Monday of May, my alma mater held its 250th Commencement this morning in the splendid confines of Franklin Field.

I would've been there, but as Philly's been under thunderstorm and rain clouds all day and the nearest feasible parking was a mile and a half away, to relive it today would've been messy. So I can keep savoring the memories of my own long walk until next year -- which isn't all that bad as I got to watch the webcast.

The choice of Oscar-winner (and Yale alum) Jodie Foster as Commencement Speaker wasn't received with the greatest enthusiasm going into today's rite. But preliminary reports from Mother Penn are that Foster pulled it off:

She earned laughs from the graduates by taking pictures of them from the podium with a disposable camera and then by recalling her own years at Yale.

But she struck a serious note later, saying the country and world are worse off than they were four years ago and challenging graduates to change that.

The United States "squandered" the goodwill and sympathy other nations offered after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Foster said. She also criticized officials for the "disastrous and shameful" handling of Hurricane Katrina, a comment that brought applause from the crowd.

She ended her speech by quoting Eminem's Oscar-winning "Lose Yourself."

Among the graduates, AP reports, was none other than Yakov Smirnoff, on whom was conferred the (non-honorary) Master's in positive psychology.

I never thought I'd ever have anything in common with Yakov Smirnoff, of all people, but that's Penn for you -- the U. brings everyone together.

So now, as the grads and families celebrate by jamming up every last Stephen Starr restaurant in town for dinner -- and the hotels sing from their annual Christmas that is Penn Commencement business -- the rest of Philadelphia joins in the cry that we, the masses of alums scattered throughout the world, let up every day: "Hurrah for the Red and the Blue!"

Oh, and Go Quakers!

Reuters/Tim Shaffer