by Liz Pinnie
This past Alumni Weekend was a time of firsts for me. It was the first time I actually listened to the words of “The Red and The Blue”, the first time I saw the Alumni Parade, the first time I spoke to Ben Franklin, the first time I experienced the joy of the food selection in the reunion tents and the agony of my feet at the end of a 14 hour day.
I heard Kweder for the first (and second, and third, and fourth time), experienced a yPenn Highball (total blast), and ate multiple Insomnia Cookies after hours (thank you, Class of ’97 for your excellent party food choices). However, my favorite first was being able to walk in the 2012 Commencement.
(Click here to see the University Flickr Photo Album)
When I signed up to “work” Commencement, I expected to chit chat with alums, help them put their caps on, and then sit patiently through too much pomp and circumstance. I had it all wrong. Yes- I did chit chat with alums, and yes, I did help them into their cap and gowns. However, after doing this I looked around the room I was in and realized that I was surrounded by General Petraeus, Andrea Mitchell, Anna Deavere Smith, President Amy Gutmann, and the brilliant faculty of Penn. As if hob-nobbing with that crowd wasn’t enough, after a brief breakfast, I trailed alumni downstairs in order to walk in Commencement. “Walk in Commencement” doesn’t really do this justice: I didn’t just walk. I processed. In full on cap and gown. Into Franklin Field. In front of a thousands of parents in the stands, and a ton of students coating the field. Carrying a very official looking flag.
As I entered the stadium, the roar of the crowd crashed into me; parents waved from the stands, students tried to high five me, and for a second as I walked up the central aisle, I’m pretty sure my face (expression was probably a cross between surprise and rapture) made it up onto the mega TV. screens that flanked the stage.
I felt way more important than I am, and like a total rock star.
As if this wasn’t enough, I was then ushered into fantastic front row seats to experience the beautiful 2012 Commencement ceremony, which included an inspiring talk by Geoffrey Canada. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTF1ytiR9gE
The crazy thing is that if you are a Penn Alumni, you too can have this experience. It’s like a two hour full body and mind revitalization; cheering fans, official regalia that makes you look very smart, great seats, rousing speakers- working and participating in Commencement is the bee’s knees. So next year, if you’re looking to be inspired, or have always wanted to be on a megatron, let us know. We’ll slap a cap on your head, a flag in your hands, and send you off into the cheering crowds for a day you won’t soon forget.