Monday, June 12, 2017

Graduation Controversy

“If your uniform isn’t dirty, you haven’t been in the game,” Ben Bernanke, Princeton commencement speech, 2013
 President Obama and Ben Bernanke, October, 2009

Ben Bernanke headed Princeton’s Economics Department prior to succeeding Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board in 2006.  Four years later, President Barack Obama appointed Bernanke to a second term. 
Jacob D. Stanley; below, Ana Kritikos; NWI photo by Jonathan Miano

Crown Region school officials turned down senior Jacob Dalton Stanley’s request to wear a marine uniform during graduation. A few days earlier, Hobart High’s administration allowed Ana Kritikos, who, like Stanley, graduated midterm, to be in uniform.   Responding to numerous complaints, Crown Point Principal Chip Pettit claimed that school policy dictated caps and gowns but allowed for individuals to the wear stoles or cords to honor military service.  Pettit added:
  This tradition is not intended to be disrespectful to students, parents, or our community, but as a source of pride for our students. It is also not intended to be disrespectful to our students choosing to serve in the military, our active duty servicemen and women, and our veterans. We are forever grateful for the sacrifices that they make on a daily basis for our freedom
Several students branded the decision a disgrace, according to NWI Times reporter Carmen McCollum.  A Stanley family member pointed out that one graduate dressed in shorts and tennis shoes under his cap and gown and another wore a red turban.  The imbroglio has gone viral, causing Private Stanley to issue this statement: “I don’t want the social media controversy that is drawing attention away from the Class of 2017. I also do not want to make any additional statements and wish to put this all behind me so I can start my career in the Marine Corps.”

In the Post-Tribune an anonymous “Quickly” contributor ranted:
            Chip Pettit should be immediately dismissed from his position for not letting Jacob Dalton Stanley wear his Marine Corps dress blues to graduate in. There is no finer or prouder set of clothes on this earth a person can wear. It has to be earned, not rented or bought, to have the right to wear it. Chip Pettit has slapped every American servicemen in the face. This man is a leader of young adults? With this kind of leadership, no wonder our schools are going to hell!

A Northwest Indiana Times editorial defended Principal Pettit:
  Stanley arrived at Tuesday's commencement ceremonies in his military uniform, despite being told previously about the policy, school officials told us last week.
After close to an hour of discussions with Crown Point Principal Chip Pettit just prior to the ceremony, Stanley opted not to participate in the ceremonies if he couldn't wear his military uniform, school officials said.
He did this in a mature way, voicing respect for the school’s decision, and was not escorted from the commencement ceremony site as some accounts have indicated, school officials say.
The firestorm of criticism Crown Point schools have faced since then, some calling the district unpatriotic, is off the mark.

At Calumet Township Multi-Purpose Center prior to a Community Bridge Club match I talked Joe Chin, one of the best duplicate competitors in the area, into agreeing to be interviewed.  For many years, Chin taught remedial math at IUN in a program directed by Milton Sankar, a friendly and dedicated administrator whom I remember with fondness.  One winter Sankar fell on the ice and was on crutches for several weeks.  When we lived in Fort Washington, my dad (Vic) tutored kids having trouble in math.  Toni did the same thing for a Maple Place neighbor, who when he subsequently did well on an exam was accused by his teacher of cheating.

Vic would have loved a caustic New York Review of Books essay by Jed Perl about artist Robert Rauschenberg titled “The Confidence Man of American Art.”  Labeling Rauschenberg “a showman, a trickster, a shaman, and a charmer,” whose work, like a Ponzi scheme, is “a confirmation of what fools we mortals be,” Perl describes what await visitors to the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) Rauschenberg retrospective:
  the imprint of an automobile tire; a couple of rocks tied with pieces of rope or string; paintings that are all white, all black, or all red; a sheet and pillow spattered with paint; a drawing by Willem de Kooning that Rauschenberg erased; deconstructed corrugated cardboard boxes; bright silken banners; a blinking light; a taxidermied Angora goat; mixed-media works mounted on wheels so as to be easily moved around; and paintings packed with photographic images.
Of the all-white, black, and red paintings, Vic would have declared: “I could have done that.”

At a seventeenth birthday party for grandson James, John English recalled hearing stories about how cool Toni was, not realizing at the time that the references were about Dave’s mom.  He was used to parents being referred to as Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so, not Jim and Toni.  Dave, about to take part in East Chicago Central’s graduation, recalled that at his Portage ceremony, John English’s father, who was school board president, shook his hand as he crossed the stage, a tradition Dave is looking forward to continuing.  It was stifling hot in the Portage gym when Dave and John graduated, and, I had to sit through a lame religious address by a Protestant minister.  Robert Blaszkiewicz was working but wife Kerri and son Max came.  An eighth-grade English teacher at Union Township Middle School, Kerri gave the graduation address to a class that included son Max.  Robert put it on Facebook.  Kerri’s main message was gratitude that students were so tolerant and accepting of fellow classmates.  She quoted e.e. cummings (“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”) and referred to Walt Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain,” which her students read recently. The Civil War poem celebrates the conflict’s end but mourns the death of Abraham Lincoln.  It ends:
                     The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done, 
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won; 
                                 Exult O shores, and ring O bells! 
                                    But I with mournful tread, 
                                       Walk the deck my Captain lies, 
                                          Fallen cold and dead.
Breakfast Club cast; below, Matt Benus

At Miller Market I enjoyed a steak taco and songs by guitarist Jef Sarver, who, after “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds from the “Breakfast Club” soundtrack, repeated the Brian (The Brain) line, “Could you describe the ruckus, sir?” in reaction to Mr. Vernon demanding to know “What was that ruckus?”  Then Portage grad Sarver joked: “That ruckus was often me.”  Sarver attended Portage H.S. around the time as Phil and Dave.  In 1986, a student named Mike Sarver, probably Jef’s brother, wrote a paper about his grandmother, who worked in the mill during World War II.  In Steel Shavings, volume 14 (1988),  appears this excerpt:
      Unlike most women, who were in “For the Duration,” she stuck with her job afterwards.  Six feet tall with short blondish hair, she had her fourth and fifth daughters during the late 1940s.
      Her family lived in Portage, a rural area except for such communities as Crisman and Garyton.  Willowcreek and Central Avenue were dirt roads, and the entire police force consisted of a sheriff and a deputy.  A Justice of the Peace handled cases in a small house, and most shopping was done in Gary.  Except for the Moose Lodge, Eagles Aerie, and Legion Post, most entertainment spots were also in Gary.

IUN Education professor Matt Benus joined me at a Miller Market bench.  He lives in a house once owned by English professor George Thoma, acting chancellor during the late 1960s.  I recall him as rather dour and acerbic, due perhaps to being in poor health.  He spoke with what a colleague called a radio voice.  Thoma was good friends with fellow U. of Chicago graduate Bill Neil, who became his second in command as Dean of Faculty.  One time for Thoma’s birthday, Neil marched into his home playing the bagpipe.  Modern Language professor Angie Komenich recalled: “George Thoma, Bill Neil, and Herman Feldman seemed to fill various slots whenever there was a vacuum of leadership.  Before the professional schools had such influence, we hoped IUN would become a model liberal arts college.” 

In Anne Tyler’s “Vinegar Girl, modeled after William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” I came across a character named Uncle Theron, the same first name as my friend Terry Jenkins.  I’d never heard of anyone else with that name but discovered on that one-term Missouri Congressman Theron Moses Rice was elected on the Greenback Party ticket.  Theron Augustus Rice from Ball State averaged 2.8 points during a two-year NBA career with the Memphis Grizzlies and the Charlotte Bobcats. According to BabyCenter, Theron ranks number 1,570 in popularity and has become a girl’s name, inspired by actress Charlize Theron.
Lyana, Brady, Yana (in baby carriage), Tom, and Oleg at Peter the Great's summer palace

On Facebook are photos by Miranda from the Greek island of Santorini (“never leaving,” she posted) and Tom Wade from St. Petersburg, where he met his first grandson.  Mike Olszanski discovered one taken in 1990 at a farewell party for the Bayers as they prepared to move from Gary to New Hampshire. I'm looking dapper in a tie and vest and am holding an Old Style.

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