Monday, August 21, 2006

Strategies for the future

I got up this morning before the dogs (that's early) and drove to the university. The sky was blue, the grass was green, and the beds of annual flowers were at their brightest to welcome the students who return next week.

My normal parking lot was almost empty, and walking to my office, I was the only person in sight. Yet at 8:15, when I entered the big lounge in the student center, it was elbow-to-elbow people. Some time later, sort of fed on coffee and pastries, I sat with several hundred others on armless chairs in a ballroom to hear the new president address us.

I started here as a part-timer in 1992, and he is the fifth president I have worked under in that time, so I am starting to feel a little jaded about university convocation-day speeches. You know the sort of thing: we will increase steel production 20 percent annually for the next five years and build a new hydroelectric dam across the Volga River.

The slide projected on the big screen behind the stage had a montage of images with the words "Strategies for the Future." I suppose that that beats "Strategies for the Past," although one could argue that strategies for discussing the past have some influence on the kind of future that we get.

In my office, the furniture was subtly out of place. When I tried to open the big file drawer in my desk, it bumped into a fixture that it normally will clear. Then it hit me--the floor had been waxed. For the first time in a decade. There must be a new custodian in the building--the old one insisted that her orders were to clean only classrooms. But I thank our new Comrade Leader.


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