Dr. Ed Crowther
Chair of History, Government and Philosophy
Today’s readers may be too young to remember police sergeant Joe Friday’s trope: “Just the facts, ma’am,” but getting the facts before making an argument apparently isn’t part of the rhetorical repertoire for Chief of Police Joel Schultz’s missive regarding the Pledge of Allegiance. In endorsing the inclusion of the Pledge of Allegiance, Schultz refers to “the tradition of recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.” He’s simply wrong. There is no such tradition on most public college campuses and at Adams State, since I arrived in 1988, only twice has the pledge ritual oozed its way into commencement exercises (December 2005 and December 2011), both times at the insistence of politically-motivated persons outside of the academic community of Adams State.
There are many reasons why commencement exercises in higher education eschew a ritual recitation of the pledge. The first is the fact that commencement exercises focus on the achievements of graduates and the second involves the fact that students come from a variety of backgrounds, beliefs, and nationalities. What unites them, and what we spectators are celebrating, is the graduates’ successful completion of a program of study at Adams State.
The pledge privileges some graduate’s backgrounds over others and is, therefore, detrimental to inclusion and celebration.
Schultz’s further assertions that the pledge adds something positive are simply non sequitur. Commencements are innately positive
By its very essence commencements celebrate the singular achievements of graduates, the shared experiences among classmates, and the collective support of this student achievement by family and faculty. Hence, at Adams State, we normally conduct commencements without the pledge because our objective is to celebrate student achievement and success. That’s the purpose of graduation.
Schultz’s important involvement at commencement is ensuring the security and safety of graduates and audience members and he does a fine job. His focus on that mission likely has prevented him from learning about the efforts over the years to make commencement focus on the graduates and their families. We don’t always use “Pomp and Circumstance” as processional music and at the M. A. graduation this spring, there won’t be a commencement speaker and we won’t be singing “Oh, Adams State.” Oh, and neither the Colorado nor U. S. flags will be on the platform.
Traditionally, Adams State’s graduations have brought students, their families, and the faculty, administration, and staffs together to honor the achievements of each graduate. That’s a tradition worth preserving.