Speaker Rick Steves summed it up in two words: “Get out.”
The travel book author and television personality urged the graduating class of The Evergreen State College to get out and find their success and resist the temptation to become another “mindless consumer.”
“It’s your challenge, your calling, to annoy regressive powers within our society for the good of our society,” Steves said.
Thousands sat in chairs, in the grass under umbrellas and along the sidewalk to watch their friends and loved ones accept their degrees.
Festivities kicked off with a sound of drums and an echo of cheers as the graduates filed through the crowd to their designated area in front of the stage.
Some wore the traditional green cap and gown, while others took a more creative approach.
Ezzie Ezgar of Reno, Nev. and her friends wore superhero costumes.
The 22-year-old graduate wore a skirt and sparkled top and green cape and held a tambourine.
“We are all just being ourselves, but super,” Ezgar said.
Other graduates had moss and ferns attached to their caps or were dressed in an alligator and unicorn costume. Others draped their regalia with caution tape, boas and pinwheels.
Aliza Brown and her mother-in-law, Dana Rogers, were looking for Brown’s husband Daniel in the crowd.
After two years, a full time job and full time school, the 31-year-old was graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
“The process has been a challenge because we are both parents, both work full time and have two kids,” Brown said. “It’s been a crash course to say the least, but he made it.”
He is the first of his family to graduate with a four-year degree.
Nesha Wright, 22, is another first-generation graduate. She had a group of family and friends toting flowers, cards and specialized T-shirts.
Wright’s sister, Deta, lives in Tacoma and will miss having Evergreen as her getaway. Nesha was accepted into the University of Washington social services graduate program.
“It’s kind of sad it’s over,” Wright said.
Ezgar said she will miss the simple things about her time at Evergreen.
“Those days of just being in the classroom when it’s super rainy and having classmates to have fun and make the day better,” Ezgar said.
The college celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and has graduated about 40,000 students in its history.
College President Thomas L. Purce urged graduates to thank their family and friends who supported them on their educational journey.
“I hope today you feel the love and the caring and the pride your family must feel,” he said.
Guest speaker Steves urged the graduates to stay engaged with society and challenge others to not “be dumbed down” but rather “smartened up.”
“I hope you feel empowered and not demoralized, not dumbed down and not made to be afraid,” he firstname.lastname@example.org 360-754-5476 theolympian.com/thisjustin @chelseakrotzer