Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

A Great Day in Northampton!

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I had the wonderful opportunity attending my daughter’s graduation at Smith College in Northampton Massachusetts. It was a sweet-bitter occasion. Bitter because I knew that she was seeing some of her fellow students for the last time; sweet because tuition payments had come to an end.

But the experience of the graduation was one that I shall never forget saluting my eyes with sumptuous splendor; the pomp; the pageantry; the grand traditions with the University of Massachusetts Brass Choir, the marching feet and Celtic, Scottish, winding of the bag pipes of the Holyoke Caledonian Pipe Band, with Pipe Major Thomas Knightly; the high call to order by Robert J. Garvey, High Sheriff of Hampton County; the invocation by Jennifer Walters, Dean of Religious Life, the poignant and tearful farewell of Carol T. Christ, outgoing president of the college; and the other grand traditions of Ivy Day honoring graduates from Phi Beta Kappa to Pi Sigma Alpha, from the Society of Sigma Xi to Tau Beta Kappa; the departmental awards; the recognition and regalia, the tapestries and majesties, the crisp and clarion calls to strident change and challenge in the soul-stirring, mind lifting, heart tugging, hand clapping commencement address by the Chair, President and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, Arianna Huffington, exhorting Smith women to begin and become a part of the third women’s revolution. What a grand and glorious day it was; tears welling in the corner of my eyes, pride swelling in the bosom of my chest, joy thumping in the beat of my heart; experiencing in full measure, the fervor and favor, as sacrament and sentiment, the 135th commencement of “thee” Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Ariana Huffington Speaks at Smith College CommencementToo often in our land, we diminish the value and  power of tradition; the medley ways in which such time-honored rituals and regalia transport us back to primordial memories of old, when cherished traditions became the sacred stones of our tribal charting and journeying. Too often the flood tides of modernity wash away the sacramental value of our brightest and burnished traditions. We pale and shrink and tuck and toss them away amid the gushing rains and rushing winds of the new things to come just because they are new, without fully vouching safe the real things that we once had and the true ways that we once were. The old moorings we root out, the old buildings we tear down just because they are ancient without ever realizing their true extant and symbolic value; and how they point still to times on earth when undertaking their construction were formidable and monumental as the challenges we face today.

It had been a long time since I sat riveted between an exalted vision of the past while raising expectations of the future. Oh, but if we could capture that same spirit of joyfully looking backward and hopefully looking forward, we could rend asunder the tepid and clouded vagaries of our present discontents!

It was truly a great day in Northampton! I would sit through another commencement again and again and again. I would go back once more  for the Bag Pipe Band, to “hear” the air, to “feel” the sky; to “smell” the sounds; to look heavenward and to await the greater things that are yet to come in Northampton and in America and in the life of my daughter and oldest daughter and the other great women who have graduated from this great institution and other great schools near and far across this great land that will cherish grand traditions and create even greater ones that will lead the way to a newer and greater America!

4 responses to “A Great Day in Northampton!”

  1. Cecil J. Thompson Avatar
    Cecil J. Thompson

    Greetings, Pastor:

    My heartiest congratulations on the graduation of your daughter! Your words transport us to that great day in Northampton. Graduation ceremonies are solemn and even more so when filled with ceremonial details whose immensity you have so beautifully described. In one sense, I have always felt that the symbols unleash perfect streams of sweetness and possibility in a historical memory and the best of our hopes for the future. But, on the hand, in my experience, something grave hangs in the air. I don’t know if it’s the challenge of the future splendidly appearing or latent anxieties that question one’s fitness to face the future. At graduations, that “something” has always left me with such a mix of gray solemnity, a purple sense of high mission, and a calming whisper of joy that everything would be fine…if I interrogate, say, Martin Heidegger about the human being’s “throwness” into life (Being and Time). I’ve not quite resolved that, but Paul Tillich identifies the “courage to be a part” (in The Courage To Be); that courage, it seems, is the nerve-center of survival; perhaps, graduations remind us that that nerve-center is in us and bolstered by years of educational toil. Not sure…

    Once again, pastor, my heartfelt congratulations!!! Best wishes and great success to the new graduate in all her endeavors. I look forward to speaking to you soon.

    Peace & Blessings,


    1. cfstewart Avatar


      Thank you and great hearing from you! Your words add flavor to the meaning of such events and you are absolutely right on point! I trust that all is well with you and I look forward to keeping in touch. God bless you and I hope that all is well.

      Carlyle Stewart

  2. Dr. Chaunda Scott Avatar
    Dr. Chaunda Scott

    Hello Pastor Stewart – Congrats on your daughters graduation. What a wonderful achievement for such a wonderful young women. Please tell her that I have a card for you her. I will bring it to church with me on Sunday. Also, congrats on your OUTSTANDING WEBSITE. Take care!

    Dr. Chaunda L. Scott

    1. cfstewart Avatar

      Thanks again Dr. Scott. I will tell Naeemah!

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