I was channeling Bob Uecker, sitting in the front row (literally) of the graduation ceremony at Tufts University. It's my husband's alma mater and he now sits on its board of trustees.
It was raining intermittently and the thousands of people gathered for the event were trying to retain their dignity while wearing a white plastic poncho, for which we were all grateful.
I found myself sitting in a limbo land. Far too old to relate to the students... I felt more in common with their parents. Nervous. Proud. Excited. Worried about their future. I often joke that I'm still proud when my little guy has a good bowel movement, I can't IMAGINE what it'll be like when my boys do something momentous.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was the commencement speaker. He spoke plainly about his humble beginnings. He grew up on welfare on the South side of Chicago. His mother, sister and he shared a room in his grandparents 2-bedroom home, which meant that every 3rd night he slept on the floor.
He received a scholarship to Milton Academy, an elite high school. Then Harvard. The first in his family to graduate from college, he did so with honors. Then Harvard law. He fought for civil rights in the Clinton Administration's justice department. A stint in the private sector and then he was elected the first black governor of the commonwealth of Massachusetts.
He juxtaposed his own biography with a the story of his now grown daughter, who by contrast always had her own room. When Katherine Patrick was 5 years -old, she had an assignment to study the changes of the seasons. And Governor Patrick recalled vividly that she went into great detail with her parents about the Four Seasons hotel in Washington, which she had visited several times. "First you drive up" she had said, "and the doorman takes your car"....
The audience laughed.
"In just one generation", he said after the laughter subsided. That is the American story. But he went on to warn that our tattered economy is imperiling that story. "5.7 million people have lost jobs in the past 2 years... And many have lost their way and their hope."
Governor Patrick said we need to once again answer the call to public service and "renew our commitment to the American story". Like another black politician we all know, Patrick asked the audience to make change. "Make an economy that expands opportunity out to the marginalized, not just up to the well-connected".
He invoked yet another change agent, Mahatma Gandhi, who challenged us "to be the change that you want to see in the world".
I looked around to try and gauge the graduation audience's reaction. The rain had stopped. And even though the storm clouds still brewed, I half expected the clouds to part and the sun to shine with the optimism that had just shone from the stage.