"How many of you are the first in your family to graduate from college?", the President of the university asked. And from the ranks of mortarboards rose close to a third of the class, to proudly proclaim what is possible in our nation. And whether they realized it or not, they were a living embodiment of what our pioneers dreamed when they faced an open ocean and sailed, to literally carve from nothing but the wildness of an uncharted country a new nation, a new opportunity for their children and the children to come. It was what they dreamed when they challenged daunting mountains without a guide, rode rivers, waded swamps, plowed through the canebreak of an impossible wilderness determined to hold them at bay.
HE rose when that question was asked, and my heart near to bursting, I slipped a sidelong peek at the proud mother nearby, and seeing tears bathing her face in clear abandonment, I allowed my own to flow.
They were accustomed to risking, our ancestors. And seeing things lost, and taken away. Fires did it, floods did it, draughts did it, wars did it, early death and illness, financial hardships, all were responsible, again and again for disaster. All precipitated the knowledge there was nothing to do but what they did, roll up their shirtsleeves and begin again. There were no insurance policies, no "backup plan", nothing for a "rainy day" all too often, and those who preceded ourselves knew only to begin again. Most of us either lived, or know intimately those who did, the Depression, the war years, much harder times than what we live today. Many of us can look at the path a family has trod, regardless of our problems, and truthfully say this family was working for a time for their family when things might not be so easily lost, so easily taken away, and they succeeded.
"A good education is something no one can take away." If I heard it once growing up, I heard it a hundred times. It was the song and dance of my parents and their parents before them. And although none of them achieved a significant amount of education beyond that offered freely in this country, that they grasped as circumstances would allow them, and that held in high esteem. And believing in it, they wished for more for the children that followed.
Today our family celebrated the college graduation of a son-in-law. It was a celebration of his commitment and dedication, a celebration of a tool for him that "no one can ever take away". It was also a celebration of the
several hundred years his ancestors have been on the scene of every great event of this country, at the scene of every economical disaster, every war, every hardship. It was a celebration of all the times shirtsleeves were rolled up, and determination was reborn to "begin again". It was a celebration of the grandparents who were soldiers and farmers, housewives and merchants, traders and pioneers. Today a young man achieved the dream that has been in his family since the days those first many greats grandparents cast their eyes on an ocean, and dreamed what was on the other side.
Just a thought,
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