AZ commencement: Carmontastic!
Well, it wasn't, as I had feared, in Wildcat Stadium! I think my colleagues were having a little fun with me. It was in the
McKale Memorial Center, where the basketball team plays; all nicely covered and well suited for dramatic lighting.
Funny how you can work for a long time at an institution and be totally ignorant of its particular traditions... turns out U of A grads throw tortillas at commencement; have done since 1919 or something. This is frowned upon, and the security detail was actually patting down students for tortillas (and, presumably, other more sinister things) beforehand. Nonetheless, a large number of tortillas found their way into the ceremony. I even got hit with one.
The speaker was Dr. Richard Carmona, former surgeon general of the US and now professor in the school of public health. He gave a really excellent and very anti-Administration speech about being citizens of the globe, about winning hearts and minds and improving the lives of others through good works and not with bombs and guns, about recognizing and addressing the long list of scary problems we all face. Very inspirational and suitable and remarkably political, unequivocally characterizing current foreign policy as a failure on all fronts, both with respect to its stated goals and with respect to catastrophic unintended consequences. As one of my colleagues said as we recessed, "He's out of the closet now!" The graduating audience at UA, not a necessarily especially progressive group, were remarkably on board with it all, cheering and clapping. Then they got back to throwing tortillas.