‘Pomp and Circumstances One of My Favorite Songs’

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UNH photo

Elinor Purrier ’18, the most decorated athlete in the history of the University of New Hampshire, runs to join President Mark Huddleston on stage during UNH’s commencement.


In this life, I’ve been  to a lot of graduations and, as I write, have one this weekend for my daughter. Hers is a high school graduation; but truth be told, I delight in them all: kindergarten, college, trade schools. Pomp and Circumstance is one of my favorite songs. I tear up from start to finish and muse joyfully when I think of the celebration of time, effort, joy.

And while certainly these ceremonies are all about the graduates, I also celebrate the educators, administrators  and custodians who’ve worked tirelessly to get the students to the finish line.  I think of the chairs set up, the schedules printed, those teachers who’ve dragged some of their most challenging cherubs  across the finish line.  I think of the parents who’ve lost a child, who do not have the privilege of complaining about the heat or the length of a graduation speech.   I think of those incarcerated who cannot see their children receive diplomas.  

I celebrate grandparents who are not around to see their children’s children wearing mortar boards and tassels.  I think of how grateful I am to live in a land where we can celebrate education, learning, scholarship.  I muse joyfully I get to be a part of that landscape. 

When my dad dropped me off in the fall of 1981 to attend the University of Massachusetts, he remarked, “Do you know how lucky you are?”  My dad, the son of Irish immigrants, raised by a single mom, had not had the luxury of going to a university.  When we went to my sister’s graduation from Saint Michael’s College, he took notes on the speech given by Robert White, the Ambassador to Paraguay.  My dad loved learning and celebrated education; a gift he gave to me and my five brothers and sisters, a legacy that continues on with his grandchildren.

So, graduations are events I deeply enjoy. They celebrate caregivers and learning and futures and, of course, those who’ve made it to the finish line, ready to move onto another venue.  I love that. Graduations celebrate places and people. If you are lucky to attend one this spring, virtually or in person, enjoy.

And I muse joyfully you, too, tear up at Pomp and Circumstance.

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