I was thoroughly impressed. The guest speaker at my college graduation was Eliot Spitzer, then the New York state attorney general, who became the NY governor several years later, quickly followed by his resignation over his involvement in a high-priced prostitution ring. Ooops.
Since Karzai was attending, security was extremely tight for the graduation and our gear had to be examined and all of us patted down. Once inside the gymnasium, our movements were restricted to certain areas. Not being one to listen, I moved around under the glaring eyes of the presidential secret service. “Madam, you can’t go here.” And “Miss, you can’t go there.” Oh, ok, sorry, sorry, I nodded. All the media were penned up in one section and I was told that they would let two or three come to the front at a time. Finally, I just went to the front of the room where the U.S. military guests were seated and parked myself up there. There was no way I was getting stuck in the back. So I was lucky enough to get some great views, and shots of Lt. Gen. Caldwell and President Karzai speaking, and I was able to get an earpiece that we use to hear the interpreter give the English translation.
Although graduations seem really common around here, this one was particularly important. The academy is modeled after the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and provides graduates with a four year degree in civil engineering, computer science, management, law or English language. It also allows the graduates to become commissioned officers in the Afghan National Army or the Afghan National Army Air Corp. The Class of 2010 was only the second class to graduate from the academy; the first graduated last year. And the audience was packed with undergrad cadets, who were very enthusiastic and supportive of their senior counterparts. So while the program is relatively new, it’s produced and is continuing to produce, qualified, educated, literate leaders for Afghanistan.
Oh, and did I mention, after President Karzai finished handing out diplomas, he took the time to greet several of the U.S. military officials attending the ceremony … including yours truly! Ok, now that made MY day.