Saturday, May 17, 2008

First Graduate's Cap & Gown Gala

On the way to Supervisor Mirkarimi's monthly Friday art show in his San Francisco City Hall offices, I ran into a small army of valet parkers.

Valet parking for events in Southern California is considered unremarkable on account of their overwhelming car culture, but in San Francisco it's rare and tends to signal the presence of the very wealthy.

The sheriff's deputies at the metal detectors on the Polk Street entrance didn't have a clue what the shindig was about, so I asked the coat check couple above, and they said it was a party for "First Graduate."

The young people with the nametags further explained that the organization was dedicated to people who were the first college graduate in their family.

Checking out their slick and beautifully designed website later (click here), I discovered that the party in City Hall was the organization's "Cap & Gown Gala," which looked every inch a donor appreciation party, down to the tuxedoed waiters.

The group is housed in the Presidio, one of the many non-profits that have flourished like mushrooms at the old Army base. The organization looks fairly new, but its overriding concept is as old as the hills. "Each kid who is the first in his or her family to graduate from college...acts as a very powerful motivator for future generations," as they put it on their site. They have a large staff, a very powerful who's-who of San Francisco on their board, and a huge slew of contributors from Dede Wilsey to Merrill Lynch.

There's an odd whiff of noblesse oblige about the organization, because with all this activity and all this money, only 24 sixth-graders are selected to be in the program each year, on "Discovery Day" in the Presidio, which sounds sort of frightening, though not as scary as the POLs (Presentation of Learning) which is another annual ritual.

If would be lovely if there was a more equitable distribution of wealth in this country and this world. Putting a few individual band-aids on that inequity doesn't strike me as particularly enlightened.

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