I attended a graduation Commencement ceremony yesterday - via “Zoom.” My niece, Alex, just graduated from Law School. It was particularly emotional, this graduation, because she had lost her father last Thanksgiving and she had no one to “Hood” her with her ceremonial cap and gown. So, where was the Commencement? At her house, in front of the fireplace. Cap, gown, Alex, and Zoom.
It was a small gathering of her family and friends who would have otherwise been at her university’s Commencement ceremony, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a crowd, had a regular ceremony taken place. But, everyone in attendance was remanded to be in lockdown from life since March 1st.
Like most other families and students in this situation, we still found a way to make it work. As Alex stood alone in front of her home fireplace, I was honored to be one of her keynote speakers on behalf of myself and her late father.
Joining us on the “Zoom for Alex,” was the Dean of Students of her University.
A gracious man who enthusiastically agreed to attend the home Commencement of one of his graduating students. The Dean read a Commencement letter he wrote for Alex specifically.
It was emotional and touching. But is this the future?
“We do what we must do - mostly for the wellbeing of others.” Virtually all high school, college, and university students across America are doing exactly what Alex did - graduating alone on social media - or drive-by graduations - or they jump into the same “Zoom boat.” It’s an emotional hardship that has garnered little to no attention without engendering political overtones.
But, our kids are our kids after all - our future.
I got to reflect as to how many similar stories as Alex’s are going on around the country right now.
Hundreds of thousands of graduates collecting their diplomas via snail-mail and celebrating their hardfought triumph via the Internet. High school graduates, college undergraduates, and graduate students, opening their mailed packet stamped with; “Document Enclosed.”
The big question now is, when will this all end?
Not just the pandemic - but keeping all students segregated from each other and from a life they were trained and preparing to enter?
Without taking political sides, we must understand what is going on with the reopening of schools across this land and the ramifications of every aspect, not only of our own lives, but of the lives of our children.
Make no mistake, schools will reopen, one way or another, this fall mostly everywhere. Students will be going back to classes in most of America with the exception of the Coronavirus extreme “hotspot,” New York City.
But, going back will not look the same as it had in the past - or at least not for a while. We will be opening in segments and in sequence in different parts of the country, different approaches, different protocols, and different sensibilities. We will not be directed to go back to school with a wave-of-the-wand from Washington.
“One size does not fit all” in reopening our schools.
The reason for this is the homeland is as big and diverse as the ethnicities that make up our American fabric. Yet, everything we hear and see in the news comes from New York City where virtually all the news networks, magazines, newspapers, ad agencies, and related media resides.
I don’t have to convince any of my readers here that New York City is “not” the United States of America, even though the media would choose to differ. The schools of New York City should not be dictating when the rest of American schools reopen, but the NY media sees it differently and cannot come to grips with that concept. That’s where the politics comes in. Most of the media we get doesn’t understand or believe in Federalism - the basis of the US Constitution in 1787. State sovereignty versus federal dictate.
All the schools in America will reopen, but only as each of their respective States reopens as well.
Simply put, the President and his Task Force are Central Command Headquarters for this Coronavirus War. There are 50 field Generals. They are called “Governors.”
Central Command is responsible for winning the War and supplying each battle zone with materials and back-ups. Central Command also gets its funding for the War from Congress as it always has done. The President and his Task Force have done a terrific job in producing and shipping vital medical equipment, supplies, and military personnel to individual States as requested.
But, the Coronavirus Task Force is not responsible or running “field hospitals” or school systems - the 50 Governor/Generals are.
Herein lies the confusion. Trump’s Central Command mandated that the Governor/Generals of each State run their own reopening. The Governors engage local battles and skirmishes - not Washington - certainly not the New York City media either.
Our schools will reopen this fall as each of the 50 Governor/Generals will design the protocols with their local health experts and with assistance from Central Command. That’s how it will all work. And, yes there will be risks doing it that way - just like there were risks taken by the brave families who came across the ocean to make this radical social experiment succeed in the first place.
As for me, I expect this will be my last Commencement speech on “Zoom” or to watch a drive-by graduation ceremony with rolled down windows and face masks - at least in most of America anyway.
Victor Pisano is a member at the Ford Plantation and a visiting Adjunct Professor at the University of Georgia.