Graduation Friday was weird.
I was looking forward to pomp and circumstance along with some revelry. Universities are good at pageantry and UCF does so many graduations that this production is a well-oiled machine. UCF delivered the pomp and circumstance. The students, on the other hand, did not deliver the revelry.
Instead, they were subdued. I had been warned about this by the event staff who commented that the prior ceremonies this semester were almost silent. It was so bad, that when I presented the graduates from the College of Business, I departed from my three sentence speech to beg the graduates to make some noise. They hesitantly complied.
The college experience is supposed to be a joyful time when you get to explore who you are, question what you thought you knew and leave celebrating your entry into adulthood knowing you are prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Graduation is a final reminder that it takes courage and boldness of action to make the world a better place.
Perhaps we have forgotten how to celebrate in large gatherings. Perhaps we have stressed compliance so much over the last year that we have sucked the joy out of too many things. Perhaps students are focused on what the pandemic took from their college experience or are just too uncertain about the future to be in a celebratory mood. Maybe it’s all these things.
What I do know for certain is that if we want to restore the revelry and the optimism of the college graduate, we need to restore the college experience and that a culture of engagement is the way to get this done. The Fall semester and the return of full blown campus life can’t come soon enough. We need to make sure that return is worth celebrating.