Monthly Archives: June 2008

Five Years

The summer has begun, and I’m reading and writing and hoping to get a few things done. Graduation day felt like kind of the cusp, the transition from class time into this other less structured time, but one thing I failed to mention about graduation — one of the nicest things, or, well, the nicest, was being invited by a cadet to his commissioning ceremony, and then being (somewhat surprisedly) asked to say a few words at the ceremony. I don’t know what the word is for the combination between being flummoxed and honored, but that was me, and I hope I did OK. I couldn’t have had anything other than the best things to say about the former cadet and now lieutenant, who’s going to do well and go far, and who I would’ve been grateful to have had as a platoon leader in my days as an NCO: good luck and godspeed, 2LT M.; it was a pleasure and a privilege to work with you, and I hope — know — you’ll stay in touch.

So, after the cusp: with considerable pruning, the grape vine is flourishing beautifully on the pergola — the advice I found about trimming it back by more than half each year was right on the mark — but the birds are already in and picking the tiny berries away. The creepy carnival is back in town this weekend, but they’ve repainted the funhouse with a penguins theme, though the penguins’ lopsided eyes and beak├ęd lipless grins bring to mind nothing more than a Steve Buscemi psychopath. Tink is favoring her luxating patella again, and I wonder if the pain in that bad knee is connected to the incoming thunderstorms that mark June’s transition to ninety-degree weather, but she’s also my queen of feline neurosis; the girl who runs and hides when she hears childrens’ voices outside.

And this blog is five years old. Much more about the cats and the house and such than it was when I started; much less about scholarship and investigating ideas. Much more about the quotidian and the certain; much less about the abstract and the questions.

That feels like a bit of a loss.

Graduation Day

Saturday was Graduation Day for us, when the graduating class took their oaths and were commissioned as second lieutenants. It was a good day and a good speech by the Secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, and a good ceremony, where I was happy to see a number of the cadets I’d worked with receive awards and recognition. And the military attention to the particulars of ceremony, if you’ve never seen such stuff, drew some emotion. Even though I knew what was coming, it was hard to resist feeling the grin and the slight tightness around my chest when the final words of the ceremony came, directed at the class of 2008, in the form of a preparatory command and a command of execution, with the emphasis on the second syllable of the command of execution:

“Class — dismissed!”

the cadet graduation hat toss

The Secretary of the Army’s speech was impressive. Low-key, certainly, and wide-ranging, as one tends to expect for graduation speeches, but he set as one of his introductory motifs Thomas Jefferson’s 1786 Bill for Religious Freedom, which states, in part, that

No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief.

Secretary Geren spoke out strongly against those who he called “zealots” who would oppress, restrain, molest, or burden those who do not share their religious beliefs, and while the implicit reference to the Taliban was clear, the fact that he did not qualify his critique suggests to me that it was likely aimed at zealots not only of one particular faith. And I find that commendable.