Hear Ye, Hear Ye…
Ti Ti Is Starting College Today!

Today, Ti Ti begins college. It is difficult for me to express to my readers, let alone to my granddaughter, how proud I am of her. Seven years have passed since a nine-year-old kid who lived near Inle Lake greeted me with this welcome, “Hi! My name is Ti Ti. Do you want to play some games?” We played Scrabble and laughed for nearly an hour.

I still recall saying to Ti Ti at the end of the game that I appreciated the time we had sitting on their living room floor playing Scrabble. As I started to get up, Ti Ti uttered, “No, wait. I have to add up the score.” So, I did as I was told and watched this kid calculate the score.

A brief moment passed. Then Ti Ti’s eyes seemed to have doubled in size as she announced that she had beat me. Not to be outdone by this nine-year-old kid, I stuck my finger in her face and replied, “Young lady, don’t you ever forget this. You beat me in my game in my language in your country. Don’t you ever forget that.”

That was several years ago. Today, that nine-year-old kid is a young lady beginning college. This essay is celebrating this rite of passage. Weekly, we chat on Messenger. We chatted the other day as a family. However, I wanted some 1:1 time with Ti Ti. I talked about her success at college…before she even started college. I went over a long litany of items for which I was extremely proud of her along with her accomplishments. I expressed that college or life in general wouldn’t be a carefree walk in the park. There will be times when things don’t work out well for her. However, she will face the problems and deal with them.

Then I paused and asked her whether she agrees with my comment. There was a slight momentary delay in responding to my question. That delay was almost deafening…for me. I was shocked. I said to her that she and I talk to each with each other as equal. We seem to be on the same wavelength, but she hesitated whether she was as good as I stated.

Man, to say that I jumped upon the opportunity of enforcing my point isn’t quite accurate. I pounced on it. I reminded her of a recent email in which she mentioned that Japanese was extremely difficult. Then she added that she would master it by working harder.

This essay is my attempt to tell Ti Ti that she is a most exemplary young lady. Late one evening last week, I came across a paragraph from William Faulkner’s speech when he accepted Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950.

William Faulkner

I have always loved this brief section of Faulkner’s statement. He was able to express the potential that each one of us has.

I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Ti Ti, as you begin college today, I want you to ponder Faulkner’s message. You are, like Faulkner, a poet. Whether in poetry or conversation, you possess the ability to write about what makes humanity more than merely an “inexhaustible voice.” You have his ability to help humanity.

I asked you what you wanted to do after finishing college. At the time, you were 14. Do you recall your email reply? Young lady, I do. You wrote that you wanted to help your country and its people to all that they can be.

In America, some politicians have the same drive as Ti Ti has. They too wish to help people become all that they can be. They write and make speeches about that goal…when they are 50 or 60 years old. You and Faulkner are gifted. He spent his early adult life helping to make America a better place in which to live. And Ti Ti started before she was 14.

Ti Ti, you are beginning college today. We can argue someday about who is more excited, you or me, about you going to college. Nevertheless, I am proud of you. You are a wonderful young lady.

Oops. I nearly forgot. Ti Ti, as you start college, I swear that I will be at your graduation. I’m practicing what I will say after the graduation service and our family is at our favorite eatery, the Nyaung Shwe Restaurant. As I did years before, I will stick my finger in your face like when you beat me at Scrabble. As we celebrate your graduation, I’ll say, “Ti Ti, don’t you every forget this. I’m proud of you.” Then I will hug you as I fight back my tears of sheer joy. I am an extremely lucky person to have met you and your family.

Then you, Snow, and Fatty can sing Auld Lang Syne again at our restaurant.