The quandary of this current graduation season is whom to feel sorrier for — graduates facing the real world or speakers invited to speak at commencement ceremonies and then uninvited to speak.
To be cajoled, wooed and invited to be a commencement speaker and then abruptly uninvited is reminiscent of that horrid fellow who dumped you in the 10th grade. Let’s just hope today’s incidents do not result in graffiti in the restroom stalls or shaving cream on someone’s car windows.
The first this season to be invited and then uninvited was the first lady. Originally invited to speak at a high school commencement in Topeka, Kansas, it was determined that her security detail and accompanying entourage, roughly numbering the population of Texas, would be so large that family members would not be able to see their loved ones graduate. So the first lady’s invitation was suspended.
Shortly thereafter she was invited to speak at a different event prior to commencement. This invitation, un-invitation and re-invitation was actually more like a 24-hour breakup followed by “we’re back together,” explained by “we just needed time apart.”
Of course, if such a thing can happen to the first lady it also can happen to someone like Condoleezza Rice. She was invited to be commencement speaker at Rutgers University, whereupon a few students and faculty objected because “Rice played a prominent role in the Bush administration.” Yes, she did. The secretary of state often does.
Rice was uninvited. Rutgers then invited Eric LeGrand, paralyzed former Rutgers University football player, to speak at commencement. And then they uninvited him. And then they re-invited him.
Consulting with Anna Post, the great-great-granddaughter of etiquette maven Emily Post, on the proper technique of inviting and then uninviting a guest, as near I can gather, it falls under the heading of “Things Not Done.”
Thank goodness for WikiHow (second cousin, once removed, to Wikipedia) that offers four steps (with illustrations!) on uninviting someone. First: Rest chin in hands and make sure you don’t want this person at your event. Next: Close eyes, rub temples, ask yourself if you’ve had an argument with this person. Step Three: Wearing a cardigan, confront the person calmly and suggest you stay out of one another’s way. Final Step: With a big red embarrassed face, only uninvite someone in a serious circumstance.
Brandeis University invited Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the most courageous women walking the planet, to be commencement speaker. A few days later they skipped to Step Three, telling Hirsi Ali to stay out of the way. Among other things, Hirsi Ali is critical of forced female genital mutilation, a view deemed intolerant by the tolerant Brandeis, which resulted in Hirsi Ali not being tolerated and thus being uninvited.
You’re in, you’re out, you’re in, you’re out. I’ve seen dice games with greater predictability.
If you’re out there buying graduation gifts this year, be grateful it’s only costing you money and not personal humiliation.
Lori Borgman is an Indianapolis columnist. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.