Day of Faith: Personal Quests for a Purpose – 3. Rachel Esplin from Harvard Hillel on Vimeo.

This is a video interview of Rachel about her religious beliefs. The interviewer, Sally Quinn, a famous journalist for the Washington Post, was invited to Harvard to interview five students from varied faiths.

Two graduations for Rachel?

Now this is pomp and circumstance at its best. Even though our daughter, Rachel, finished her Harvard education in December, the mid-year graduates are also invited to the “big” graduation in the Spring. So I was able to attend both commencement ceremonies. Rachel spoke at the December graduation, and I blogged about that event.  Click here to read about that event and see the photos.

The nation’s oldest Phi Beta Kappa Society
I must say Harvard does know how to throw one big bash for their graduates. They have three full days of events. Rachel was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa (honors society) on Tuesday in the Sanders Theater, which is the same building as the Annenbrug Dining Hall, which looks just like the dining hall in the Harry Potter movies, but has more elaborate statues.

Christine Amanpour, Meryl Streep & Supreme Court Justice Souter
The undergraduates have their 2010 class ceremony on Wednesday, which is when Christiane Amanpour, CNN senior correspondent, spoke. The big commencement was Thursday, and two of the honorary degree recipients were Meryl Streep and David H. Souter. (Note the photo of them sharing a laugh, above…from the Harvard Gazette’s story) The former Supreme Court Justice, Souter, also spoke at one of the events.

Rachel gets on the stage
For the actual commencement, Rachel was able to march in front of her class, with the other Summa Cum Laude (highest honors) recipients, and was lucky enough to be one of only about 20 who were called up on stage during the graduation, to shake the hand of the Harvard university President, Drew Faust, provost, and others. We were able to watch all this on large screens about halfway back in the Harvard Yard.

7,000+ graduates plus 10,000+ more guests? – All seated outside
This event includes the graduates of the Harvard Business college, Law School, and other graduate schools there, so there were thousands of people in attendance, and as you can see from one of the top photos in this post (from the Harvard Gazette’s story), it is all held outdoors in the midst of the grand old buildings in Harvard Yard.

Friends and shopping in Cambridge
We enjoyed hanging with Rachel’s friends, especially her Harvard roommate, Stephanie Brinton, and her husband, Lindsay, and the entire, amazing Brinton family. A highlight for Zoe was going to the Harvard Coop to get her final Harvard t-shirts. Who knows when we will get back to Boston? It has been a fun four years traveling there to see Rachel and hear about her latest exciting adventures.

Bagels and lox at Harvard Hillell
We posed for a photo with Rache’ls dear friends at the Harvard Hillell, the campus Jewish headquarters. Rachel spent one of her Spring Breaks doing service in a Mayan village, in the Mexican Yukatan peninsula. After that, Bernie, a professor and leader at the Hillell, asked Rachel to represent the LDS religion on a panel of Harvard students, who were interviewed about religion, by a Washington Post journalist, Sally Quinn. Here is a link to that interview: Day of Faith with Rachel Esplin. You can see her friend Bernie, seated next to her in the interview.

The 359th Harvard Commencement
Since Harvard was founded in 1636, and older than our great nation, the commencement is steeped in tradition. It all starts with the Sheriff of the county, calling the meeting to order, in a booming voice and old English formal dress (tails, hat, robes) as he pounds a large staff on the stage. Then the President is greeted by each Dean in equally formal attire and style, as they perform a scripted ritual of presenting their graduates. The President recites what things the graduates will be able to accomplish in the world and accepts them for the honor of commencement. This goes on for quite some time, until all the Deans of the various colleges have presented their graduates. After this huge commencement, we went to the final event at the Leverett House, where she received her diploma.

Diploma awarded at the Leverett House finale
The Harvard undergraduates are divided into 12 different houses, and this is their main organizational unit (rather than being divided by majors, departments, and colleges). Most of the students live on campus in these “Houses” similar to the Harry Potter system: Griffindoor, Slitherin, etc. This final event was similar to the convocation we have at BYU-Idaho in the college of Business and Communication. It is an unforgettable experience, and a fun way to celebrate Rachel’s amazing achievements.

What’s next for Rachel?
Rachel and her husband Scott, are spending five weeks in Peru and Brazil, as counselors for a Service conference for LDS youth, kind of like “EFY in South America.” The last we heard they were digging trenches to direct water to Peruvian villagers who were hit by a devastating mud slide. In August, Rachel starts her fellowship with the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace. She and seven others, were selected from over 600 applicants from around the nation, to work at this “think tank” for the next year. Part of her responsibilities include travel to China, to with research and writing for policymakers in Congress. Her husband Scott, will finish his bachelors degree in one year from Georgetown, then who knows what their next adventure will be?

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