Dear graduate, remember this

It was cheek-to-cheek in the gym on Tuesday evening, but people were glad to cozy up. It beat standing for three hours.

It was the commencement ceremony for the senior class of Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy High School, a parochial school just outside Seattle. A beautiful young lady born in Las Vegas — and my No. 1 grandchild — was one of the graduates.

Sometime between the opening prayer and the dismissal, another big event took place. Sen. Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president.

June 3, 2008, was a big day, indeed.

Now I admit the connection is only personal. But it took greater meaning for our family because of this shared bond: Sen. Obama was born of a black father and a white mother … and so was our granddaughter. So, whenever Obama’s candidacy raised questions of racial barriers, it served as a reminder to us of issues we’ve contemplated since she was born. And it was no academic exercise. These were real flesh-and-blood questions for us.

Here’s the end result of all that grandparent worry: While we’re not a perfect country, the Founding Fathers were right in word, if not in deed: We are a nation of equals. We believe God gives all people certain unalienable rights which America, born to be good and great, protects and preserves.

I believe it and I trust in this country to provide it for future generations. But from one era to the next, we’ve been a resolute people in continuing to live up to that American promise.

Barack Obama’s candidacy, then — win or lose — is an advancement on this promise. It’s not only that he’s the first person “of color” to be nominated for president by a major political party, it is that he runs on his ideas, not his race. Americans — save for a few softheads who will vote for him because of his skin color and a few soreheads who won’t — will elect or reject him based on those ideas.

I have reservations about his ideas. Can his form of collectivism work without damaging the spirit that makes America special? And, does he have a clue how to conduct foreign affairs with crazies carrying a suitcase nuke? Discussion for another day.

For now, I’m proud of a beautiful girl who moves on to college with the whole world in front of her. Will there be bumps in the road? Sure. Will some of them come from idiots? It is possible, but she’s strong. And if it comes from more than one jerk or two, the Constitution will be her shield.

But no sense in dwelling on the negative on graduation day. In fact, now that I think about it, I’m not sure what America haters tell their children on such occasions. Do they tell them that they live in an evil country that seeks to use its military power to enslave the world, and then willfully keeps veterans homeless while it kills the planet one carbon emission at a time — but other than that, kid, best of luck?

All I know is what I told our new graduate. It’s what my parents told me and their parents told them. I suspect it is essentially what a lot of parents in Las Vegas told their graduates this year, too:

Work hard. Avoid shortcuts. Do the right thing and always remember: You live in a great country … and you will make her greater.

Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@reviewjournal.com) is president of Stephens Media and publisher of the Review-Journal.

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