I looked up the definition of the word commencement and it includes starting something and also the conferring of diplomas. Those seem like two different things. The start of something and the completion of something.

But maybe they are the same thing.

Today, our family will sit through several hours of speeches waiting for our son, the youngest of our three children, to walk across the stage and collect his diploma.

This is not our first rodeo in this regard and likely will not be our last as we already have one daughter in graduate school and hopefully there will also be another generation after this one.

But it is a milestone for us, as The Gotham Gal wrote about in the victory lap she took on Friday.

I have given several commencement speeches and my mindset with them has always been to look forward not backward. After all commencement means the start of something.

For our son Josh, it is the dawn of that exhilarating, confusing, and rewarding experience we called adulthood. I am excited for him.

For us, it is the end of the era of having our kids living with us, at least part of the time, and the start of what’s next.

I like starting things. I like looking forward. And I like commencements. They are hopeful, optimistic, and serious days. I am looking forward to enjoying this one today.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. BillMcNeely

    Its cliche but time flies. I remember you writing about him being the one to move out. Congrats!

  2. Mike Zamansky

    Congratulations all around!!!!

  3. awaldstein

    Mazel Tov to you and Joanne!(really enjoyed Joanne’s post on this btw.)

  4. TeddyBeingTeddy

    Studies show the 3 happiest times in a couples life is (a), pre wedding, (b) having 4-5 yr old kids, and (c) being empty nesters for the first time

  5. pointsnfigures

    Congratulations. I love commencement too. Participating, being, watching. It is the beginning of the beginning.

  6. Jim Borden

    I remember first reading about you and your family in a Wall Street Journal profile from 2011:… and now all three children are college grads. congratulations to all of you!

  7. JimHirshfield

    Congratulations. Are any of the kids following in their parents footsteps?

  8. Tom Labus

    Congrats to you and your family. Always a great day!!

  9. Frank W. Miller


  10. mikenolan99

    Congratulations! My daughter was 4th in line to get her diploma… and texted us moments before walking on stage… “We are going to just keep walking and not come back… meet us outside?” Saved us from the reading of several hundred names… I do love that girl so!

  11. jason wright

    highly ritualistic cultural behaviour. almost ‘cultish’.The prologue ends. The debt repayments begin. In this age of greater and greater access to information is a traditional (selective) education worth the cost, and is it in fact at all good for society as we move rapidly forward into this age of tech ‘innovation’ and labour (that’s human beings lest we forget that in the rush to cash in) redundancy?

  12. Vendita Auto

    Health & Wisdom

  13. sigmaalgebra

    There is a LOT of (A) fantastic potential in life, some of it challenging to obtain, a lot of it, e.g., a spring day, a spectacular sunset, Upstate NY fall leaves, easy to obtain and (B) total junk, and sometimes worse, out there, and way too large a fraction of our society lets themselves get distracted from the potential to the junk.From what you wrote about family, commencement, more children, etc. is definitely the “right stuff”. You’ve got a good compass and are following it. Good for you.So, here are some of the main items on the “standard annual schedule”: Thanksgiving, Christmas and/or Jewish holidays, New Years, birthdays of husband and wife, wedding anniversary, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, e.g., with chocolate bunnies, for Christians, Halloween for the kids, birthdays for the kids, parties for the kids whenever they do something good in academics, athletics, science, art, politics, business, graduate from K, grade school, middle school, high school, college, grad/professional school, get the first good job, move into their first apartment/house, go steady, get engaged, get married, have a child, etc. Count that up and it’s an average of a party at least once month and maybe once each two weeks.So, make the parties happy times. Thus, make everyone feel that they are a secure part of a strong family. Then, presto, bingo, it turns out that standard as adults one of the strong motivations will be to recapitulate the good times they had as children — so, grow strong limbs on the tree. Then the grandparents can help and enjoy building strong, new growth on the tree. Darwin and Mother Nature will smile. Nearly everyone in the family should smile at least at the parties each 2 weeks or so and most of the rest of the time.All that should be in my Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys.But far too many people look at that outline of life and reject it, turn away, and pursue or just drift in whatever directions whatever winds, pop culture, random circumstances, absurd, even destructive, ideas, etc. influence. Bummer.In the US, by 1900, a huge fraction of the population was on farms and relatively isolated from strong, good influences about life. WWI hurt a lot of families. After WWI, there was a lot of urbanization that had people less isolated and let them get more inputs about life. The Great Depression did terrible damage to a lot of families and the confidence that couples could build good families. WWII did more such damage. Viet Nam, the following inflation, the crash of 2000 and 2008 did more damage. The US very much needs to get back to emphasizing building strong families. Darwin is on the case and watching.

  14. Kabir Kadre

    Congratulations to you and the family. :-)Being a bit of a word nerd, I was intrigued by your inquiry around the quality of beginning and the diploma as signifying an end. So I looked up the etymology —…What stood out to me the most was “to initiate as priest.” As in our modern parlance, Commencement is short for commencement ceremony, we begin to see the ritual taking place. It is common that someone initiated will be given something they will need for the journey – in this case the diploma. They will need this ritual artifact to present to the priesthood they will meet as they take their place in holding together and furthering the religion of society.Thanks always for sharing your journey with us so generously as you do.

  15. Twain Twain

    One of the best things about this blog are the everyday life stories. Congratulations to your son!

  16. sigmaalgebra

    In way too many ways, the US is actually a poor country; you have explained one or some of the ways.For some high level statistics, IIRC 40% of children are born to single mothers, and 1/3rd of marriages end in divorce.Such family problems are very hard on the kids. E.g., a lot of kids get neglected and learn late if at all a lot of what is important in life.My parents did relatively well, e.g., both worked hard and well and never divorced or separated. Each year we did well at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both kids got Ph.D. degrees.But in other families, I’ve seen way, Way, WAY too many problems. In income the families ranged in small steps from middle class but had to budget the groceries to wealthy, and the family problems didn’t seem to be caused by too little money. The best families I saw did well quite broadly, including on money. But, from what I’ve seen, over all families, more money increases the chances of divorce.Too many of the examples I’ve seen are inexcusable extractions of defeat from the jaws of victory: I have to conclude that way too small a fraction of couples place anywhere nearly enough emphasis on strong families.

  17. Richard

    This college cohort must be soo confused. Take Bitcoin, sold as a decentralized bag of goods yet at its core is a centralized wealth inequality mass.

  18. sigmaalgebra

    For a contribution to US university commencements there is, of course, from the stiff, upper class dominated, Royal headed, British EmpireElgar – Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (Land of Hope and Glory) (Last Night of the Proms 2012)complete with vocal, at…The best of the British is much of the best there is and much of the best of the US, but some of the worst from across the pond over there can make the US glad it fought, won, and broke away!Sure, I’ve never been east of the Statue of LIberty, but, still, from this side of the pond, in music, I look to Germany, Austria, Russia, Italy, Poland, Finland, France, and a few others near those. Did I mention Great Britain? In food, France, Italy, Germany, Austria. Gee, did I mention Great Britain??? In science? NOW we’ve got a lot of the best, Newton, Maxwell, Rutherford, Dyson, Darwin, and more.But in his march section, with six notes followed by five notes, over and over, has the whole audience up on their hind legs, waving British flags, and singing along with choir, and no doubt that’s just what Sir E. Elgar had in mind!

  19. Lawrence Brass

    Congratulations to the family!

  20. Donna Brewington White

    Congratulations to you and Joanne and your family!

  21. Pete Griffiths

    Congratulations.It is a wonderful day.Almost as good as the day they come off the payroll.

  22. Adam Parish

    Congrats on leading your youngest through school. I’ve got four kids myself. Adulthood starts when you receive your college diploma?