Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flag Day, Graduation, Ethiopia

The “Stars and Stripes”, the official National symbol of the United States of America was authorized by congress on that Saturday of June 14, 1777 in the fifth item of the days agenda. The entry in the journal of the Continental Congress 1774-1789 Vol. Vlll 1777 reads “Resolved that the flag of the thirteen United States be Thirteen stripes alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

This morning I attended the graduation ceremonies for one of my high school horn students. She had received an award and each year the recipient of that award is invited to perform at graduation. So a brave hornplayer, Leslie, followed the valedictorian's speech and the commencement speaker by performing Eugene Bozza's Chant Lointain for Horn and Piano. I played the piano part. She rocked!!

One interesting thing that I noted occurred near the beginning of the proceedings as the choir sang the National Anthem. All heads were directed at the humongous flag hung on the gymnasium wall, but maybe only a third of the attendees had hand over heart. Not even all of the faculty members made this small gesture. Perhaps observing whether someone places his right hand across his chest has become less a symbol of patriotism and more one of cultural indoctrination. I think that it has less to do with respect than it does outward signs of conformity.

A second interesting tidbit came during the invocation. First an official school invocation was read; it was also printed in the program. Then three students read verses from three texts. One young man chose a verse from Joshua in the Old Testament of the Bible. The verse chosen by a second young man was recited in the original Sanskrit before he provided the translation. Then a young woman recited a Hebrew verse and it's translation. An inclusive collection of faiths and beliefs represented.

Then the kicker. As the Head Master, this is a private school, was sharing bits about the graduating class he mentioned all of the college applications, all of the acceptances, all of the honors and scholarships. But the one he saved for last was the announcement of a senior who had been presented her commission to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.

That honorable graduate is none other than my horn student, Leslie. Way to go girl!!

In the afternoon, my Sweetie and I attended a graduation party for the son of one of his co-workers. What a party that was! Wonderful bounty of Ethiopian cuisine, including a traditional honey 'beer' made fresh by the host. Did I mention food? Lots and lots of food.

Later in the evening - I believe many guests were staying the night - we shot some pool and enjoyed music of which neither of us understood a word. The father of the graduate played some music videos in the background which showed copious examples of traditional Ethiopian-style dance. Well, can you see where this is leading?

A drink (coke) was taken out of my hand while I sat in a cozy armchair and I was recruited to join the dancing. OK. I don't dance. Never have really. But many, many, many eyes were on us in that grand basement. So I did my best at replicating the shoulder-shrug/shake and arms bowed just so of a native Ethiopian woman. Out came the video cameras I'm embarrased to say and much laughter bounced around the room. I even grabbed my Sweetie to share in the embarrassment. I'm afraid their friends and family will be talking about the party during which the only non-Africans joined the dance.

Now tell me honestly. Does it matter that in one day I celebrated American patriotism, Christian scripture, original Hindi Sanskrit, Hebrew Torah, and the fellowship of a mix of Muslims and Christians? Such is life near the Nation's Capital.

Toto. We are definitely not in Kansas, I mean Oklahoma, any more.


  1. Sounds like you had a ball and only in America one can enjoy the day you had :)

    Hopefully, the right choice is made in November.

  2. So glad I read this, just after having to defend my reasons for being against the death penalty on my blog from some I've-been-on-ABC,NBC, CNN, etc etc etc- man who added a bizillion links in his defense. Thank you.

  3. I think it's great you did all those things in one day. Be glad you can.