A Column From a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Commencement

One of my favorite moments in Star Wars is the end of “A New Hope” (1977). Luke, Han and Chewbacca enter a gorgeous throne room on Yavin IV and walk down a row of fellow Rebellion members. They’re greeted by Princess Leia, who gives them a smile and then places medals over their heads. R2-D2 and C-3PO watch from the side, R2 doing a little droid dance that makes our heroes chuckle. Of course, Leia’s hairstyle steals the show. She has this amazing braid wrapped around a bun that then cascades down her back. Truly a hair icon.

This scene always gets to me. It’s there to show Luke, Han and Chewbacca getting rewarded for helping destroy the Death Star, but it’s also a commencement. Next time we see these characters in “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) they’re much more prominent in the Rebellion. Luke’s a lieutenant commander. They’re the big fish in the small pond now, and the throne room scene elevates them. Obviously, I’m trying to draw some sort of graduation metaphor here, and I hope it’s sticking.

Star Wars is all about mentors. These mentors act as teachers and guides, passing on their knowledge and experience before the next generation continues their legacy (or, in Kylo Ren’s case, completely destroys it). We don’t get to know Qui-Gon Jinn much before he’s killed in “The Phantom Menace” (1999), but we can see that Obi-Wan learns a lot from him and that Obi-Wan passes this on to Anakin in their training. Anakin has some qualms with Obi-Wan throughout the series, and eventually they have their ultimate falling out, but there are plenty of other positive mentor-mentee relationships.

For one thing, mentees don’t always agree with their teachers. Rey expects a lot out of Luke in “The Last Jedi” (2017), but he really doesn’t provide her with much help. It’s frustrating, but if one thing is true, it’s that Rey evolves because of their relationship, however tumultuous and quick it may be. Sometimes, teachers see themselves in students and don’t want their students to make the same mistakes they did (like with Leia and Poe in “The Last Jedi”). Sometimes, mentors can get you killed as a part of a larger scheme, like Palpatine did to Count Dooku in “Revenge of the Sith” (2005).

The point is, there’s a variety of Master/Padawan relationships out there. At Tufts, we all have our mentors, our teachers, our leaders who shape our paths and pass on their knowledge. For seniors, this time is probably very strange: You’re about to explore a new world but are also looking back on the memories and the mentors at Tufts that shaped you. As a freshman, I’d also like to point out that these seniors have been mentors during my first year at this University. I can’t even count how many times I’ve taken advice from Alison Epstein, Cassidy Olsen, Justin Krakoff and Alizée Weber. They’ve been the Luke to my Rey. As you graduate and receive your medal (diploma?) like Luke, Han and Chewbacca, don’t forget that you have inspired the next generation of the Rebellion. May the Force be with you, always.