Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

Not just another graduation


Seven years ago my youngest son graduated from San Diego State University. It seems like only yesterday when our last fledgling flew the coop.

A few weeks ago we had the honor to attend one more graduation at SDSU. We are just as proud of this graduate as we are of our three sons’ diplomas.

Adau Tiop is the longtime girlfriend of my eldest son. In Facebook language, we call her by the fitting expression "daughter-in-heart."

Unlike our three sons, Adau is not a product of a small American town where you graduate from high school, then go on to the college of your dreams. Her path to the stage of SDSU, where she received her diploma, began in the country that is today called South Sudan.

As a persecuted Christian Dinka, 2-year-old Adau fled the country with her parents and siblings shortly after the start of the civil war that has ravished that nation for decades.

From the southern part of Sudan, the family made its way to Beirut, Lebanon, not exactly the safest city in the world but somewhat better than where they came from. In Lebanon, not only the children, but also the father was able to get an education and a degree.

The parents passed on the importance of education as the road to success in this world. Many family members either have degrees or are working toward one.

Although I never bothered to attend my own college graduation, I have been to ceremonies at the University of Wisconsin, Arizona State University, and twice at San Diego State.

In 10 days, my twin nieces are graduating from UCLA. I’m hoping they are graduating in the same field so we can limit it to a single ceremony.

Let me be quite clear about this. All college graduations are boring and long; as in real long. Literally thousands of students parade across a stage to have their name spoken and a piece of paper (which is almost always not the real diploma) thrust into their hand.

The graduate must be your direct descendant, or a person you really like; otherwise most humans would not put themselves through that long a torture.

In Adau’s case, we love her like a daughter. At least partially due to the path she tread while in her youth, this young lady is probably the most grateful person I have ever met on the planet.

I have watched her through the years show small signs of appreciation that most Americans simply take for granted. The real truth is her inner beauty outshines her stunning attractiveness.

Her attitude about life will compliment her degree from the Department of Public Administration that will carry her to who knows where. Wherever her career takes her, be assured the world will be a better place for it.

Adau and her family are rather fortunate to be in America at all. Although Sudan was the first place her family fled, it was an incident in Lebanon that almost defined a much worse future.

When Adau was a small elementary student in Beirut, she was walking home one day and found a wrapped package lying in the street. Assuming it was a present somebody had lost, she took it to her friend’s house and gave it to her as a gift.

When the package was opened, to everyone’s surprise (and alarm) it was found to contain a bomb. The authorities raided Adau’s family home with accusations they belonged to a terrorist network.

She must have been as charming to the authorities back then as she is today, because after a decade her family was eventually allowed to immigrate to America for which we should all be thankful.


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