Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A presidential duty

Imagine the president of the United States coming to your college graduation; having him (or her!) be the guest speaker and personally handing you your crisp diploma. How exciting, how cool would that be? And imagine how you would probably always remember something like that. A few days ago I attended the graduation ceremony for the National Military Academy of Afghanistan Class of 2010, where Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke and then stayed to personally present each of the 212 graduates with their diploma and ceremonial sword. Talk about making someone’s day!

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.

1 comment:

  1. Elliot Spitzer was your guest speaker? lol. Nice "oops" there. Exciting day Sarah, someday I'll brag about all the famous powerful people I meet and u can be stuck somewhere answering dumb questions all day too