Friday, May 2, 2014

uncool z

Today was graduation day.  In recent years I have had the opportunity to participate in these.  I walk down with other faculty and administrators, take my place on the platform, and listen to the various speakers.  We've had some excellent ones at Northeastern. Bill Clinton a few years back.  Colin Powell in 2012.  Janet Napolitano today.

And the student speakers are also quite good. Northeastern has dramatically increased its admission standards in the last decade so the student who gets to speak is typically extra special. Today's message was no exception. Well conceived and written remarks.

The school has also been privileged to have had interesting personalities accept honorary doctorates. Today we had two such interesting personalities accept degrees.  James Todd Smith and Wade Davis II.

I knew of neither.  Wade Davis II is a former professional football player who came out as gay after he had retired. He has been an advocate for inclusion in sports and in all arenas.  I had not known anything about his organization or activities but I found the write-up in the graduation booklet to be impressive and I am glad we honored someone who has fought against the status quo for civil rights.

James Todd Smith I had not heard of either.  But the undergraduates sure did.  As I was walking down the aisle with the rest of the procession, the images of we participants were projected on the giant screen in Boston Garden. I was halfway down the aisle when I heard the students and the assembled family members give out a squeal.

I knew the noise was not for me.  I may look okay for someone who has been around the track three score and four, but this was not for me. I asked a colleague.  She said that it was because James Todd Smith's image had appeared on the screen.

I may not be the only one in the world who does not know who James Todd Smith is.  But as I discovered today I may be the only one on planet earth who does not know, the now Dr. Smith, by his popular handle. L.L. Cool J.

I knew that we were going to award an honorary doctorate to a rapper, but I do not follow rap music. Don't know if I could identify a single rap song.   As I sat in my seat and students were receiving their diplomas I read the bio of L.L. Cool J that appeared in the graduation booklet. Very impressive.  I was amused by what the initials stand for.  Ladies Love Cool James.

Let me tell you, they do.  At a luncheon afterwards, a fifty something colleague, approached him as a teenager would approach an icon. When he kissed her hand, she positively swooned. I thought, no kidding, that she might faint.  And she was one of many who were taken by the star.

For the record, L.L. Cool J was modest, impressive, and seemed to be genuinely honored to receive the honorific.  When I went back to the office after the ceremony and revealed what I had discovered, my young colleagues all reacted as if I had said I did not know who George Washington was.

Uncool Z, certainly.  I did not get to speak with either James Todd Smith or Wade Davis II, but I am glad I had the opportunity to get close to them and also glad that I work for a university that decided to give honorary degrees to them.  Janet Napolitano's talk focused on the importance of making a difference in the world.  Davis is someone who is making a difference in our society and Smith aka LLCool J has made a difference as well with his art.

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