The connection between a university graduation and social justice may not be immediately obvious, and I did not expect to be posting about my son’s ceremony, but a few things made the occasion somewhat relevant (at least for me, who connects pretty much everything to social justice).
- We had no sooner got seated in the remarkably un-comfortable chairs in the stunningly beautiful Exhibition Building than the emergency system directed us to evacuate. Nobody moved, including us. Not until the ushers got into action. Then it was a sluggish process, and nobody went far from the building until we were again ushered further away. An hour later we were back inside. The ceremony proceeded; nobody explained, and it struck me that we are amazingly privileged to live in a country where an emergency siren can be treated as a minor annoyance, turned into a joke about a bomb-scare, and an opportunity for coffee, but not seen as a serious threat. When I subsequently told this story to a friend who came from a war-ravaged country, she visibly shrank into her chair, withdrew into her own frame, and said: “That sounds very scary.”
- I was also struck (while standing outside somewhat bored) by the university’s banner and its reference to ‘Australia’s finest graduates’; I said something to my daughter along the lines of “that’s a bit arrogant, don’t you think?” Before she had a chance to speak, a young man next to me informed us that “we are ranked thirty-first [I think he said] in the world, you know.” Amazingly privileged – again.
- The good part was that the professor who gave the occasional address reminded the assembled students, and everybody present, about the responsibility that goes with privilege. The theme of his talk was climate change; he regretted that his own generation had not done enough and encouraged the students to do better.
- My son does not talk about privilege and responsibility (leaving that to his mother) but he is committed to change, and did engineering to make a practical difference; he wants to work on renewable sources of energy. I do hope he gets that opportunity – and responsibility.
Best Themis blessings to the generation of change…and hope… Joan Beckwith.
Written By Joan Beckwith, PhD
What has a graduation got to do with social justice? was originally published @ 2020 Social Justice and has been syndicated with permission.
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