Today as a stream of graduates cross the stage capping their careers at Southern Oregon University with a cap-and-gown celebration, remember that each one is a story of its own.




Some of these stories are significant; far more than we can ever write about. In the months and years to come it will be up to these individuals, the class of 2007, to write their own stories with their actions in the grand book of humankind.




But it is also notable to mention that some already have put their fountain pen to parchment with bold strokes. Certainly a single mother, who today will walk down the aisle with her youngest daughter &

her two older children are already SOU alumni from the previous two years &

of three is a story of determination and family success that is worth retelling .




Before the final tassel is turned, we wish to applaud another such story of true significance . Linda Richards is well-known in Ashland. Her commitment to nonviolent principles applied to the many issues she has been active in over the years is highly laudable.




But her most recent contribution, a capstone project done with Maj. Travis Lee, shows just how committed Richards is to the values she espouses. Put aside for just a moment the important project and its potential help to veterans that the pair accomplished. Focus first on the contribution to this community they gave beyond the actual, significant accomplishment.




Richards and Lee put aside those stereotypes that blind and bind us, and came together to talk, listen and learn. They found, as Lee says, "We just wanted the same things."




Symbolism is powerful. It is used every day to convince us to buy things, or to inspire us to loyalty or to emotion. The symbolism of this relationship, one an active member of the military the other a determined peace advocate, can be applied to virtually any of the many conflicts that entangle our community.




Two people supposedly on opposite sides of the fence, found a way to cross the divide by simply listening, respecting and exploring common ground. The discovery led to fertile soil in which to plant an important project. The net result of their capstone project is that veterans in our area will have a one-stop center to find support and assistance they need.




Lee probably had to be especially cautious by entering into this relationship. Obviously a success in his career &

you don't achieve the rank of major by not pursuing it very diligently &

Lee had to consider the potential black mark of working with a woman well-known for her anti-war position. Yet Lee didn't just see the activist, he saw Richards the person. As she did he.




As they and their classmates of 2007 graduate today, we thank them for their contribution to our community. Should more of us be similarly inspired to follow their lead &

listen, respect and explore common ground &

with our so-called opponents, perhaps we will read many more such stories that celebrate our progress, our humanity and our ability to rise above the labels than blind us.