news 6 days ago

EDITORIAL: Little sizzle, no pop, but education's value is eternal

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. — The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

May 23-- May 23--Luke Dupre's heart was set on a moment that never happened.

The LSU graduate planned to walk across the stage at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center decked out in a stole and wearing a medal befitting a guy who'd graduated summa cum laude in just two years with bachelor's degrees in history, political science and religious studies, with College Honors and Upper Division Honors Distinction.

No such luck, not in this graduation season of the novel coronavirus. Instead, Dupre's makeshift ceremony was scheduled for family at a crawfish pond on their farm in Iota -- not a packed house on LSU's campus. Instead of looking back on the ceremony that was not, he is looking ahead to a dual pursuit of a law degree and master's coursework at LSU.

Dupre's journey to graduation -- he took LSU online courses while attending high school in Crowley, then took course overloads and summer work to graduate early -- was distinctive, but his plight come graduation week was similar to those of students -- college and high school -- across the state. Social distancing mandates connected to a global pandemic prevented graduation ceremonies this year.

LSU conferred degrees on 4,347 students last week in a virtual ceremony and watch party shared through Facebook. Graduates' names were displayed on Tiger Stadium's scoreboards.

Southern University's campuses participated in a ceremony with other historically black campuses that featured an appearance by President Barack Obama. The University of New Orleans plans an end-of-the-month virtual commencement and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduated its largest spring class -- virtually. Tulane's website recounted the "pop and sizzle of fireworks to the buzz and beat of New Orleans jazz" at its graduations -- then invited people to a livestreamed graduation event.

Louisiana schools did their best to deliver sunshine and smiles to graduates within the damper of a global population that's mostly stuck indoors. Schools' every good effort at cheer should be applauded.

Graduates may understand, though it doesn't soften disappointment. Dupre said whenever discouragement would visit him during his herculean efforts as a student, he'd imagine walking across the stage, wearing his medal, receiving congratulations from LSU's president. He thought LSU decided too early to cancel graduation. Maybe, but the outcome would have been the same.

He and other Louisiana graduates must comfort themselves with this: They completed an arduous yet admirable journey, which bears inherent riches; what was conferred cannot be taken; scholarly accomplishments are theirs for life, not for just a single ceremony. Knowledge and wisdom are eternal, even sans the sizzle.


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