Thunderbird School of Global Management’s traditional Parade of Flags took a twist Dec. 16 2011, when students from Germany and Greece found themselves on stage together during fall commencement in Glendale, Arizona, while a debt crisis escalates in Europe.
“While we were rehearsing this morning, we realized that Greece and Germany are so close together alphabetically,” said German flag bearer Severin Nesselhauf ’11. “But in reality in times of crisis, it seems that our countries are so far apart.”
The Parade of Flags, which has been part of Thunderbird commencement ceremonies for nearly 30 years, allows international students to represent their countries and to speak briefly about their culture, history and national attractions. Typically two students stand on stage together based on alphabetical order.
“In the true Thunderbird spirit, we thought that speaking together would be symbolic of our generation’s promise to make this world a better place together,” said Greek flag bearer Philip Arsenis ’11.
The comments drew loud applause from the audience, assembled to honor more than 170 graduates from about 30 countries.
The parade also brought together students from Pakistan and India, two countries with a history of conflict. “Coming to Thunderbird, I thought I was really going to miss my Pakistani community,” said Pakistan flag bearer Asraa Rehman ’11. “But after coming here, I realized how similar we all are.”
Rehman gave special recognition to her Indian classmates at Thunderbird. “I really want to let you know how much I appreciate that you have never let me feel alone,” she said. “You truly represent the unity that our countries aspire to achieve.”
In past years, the Parade of Flags has brought together students from other countries with tense relations, such as Iran and Israel.
Thunderbird Chief Academic Officer and Dean David Bowen, Ph.D., said the flag tradition helps showcase Thunderbird’s commitment to global citizenship. “Perhaps you have heard before about the Thunderbird mystique and the magic of Thunderbird, but you were not certain what it meant of what it looked like,” Bowen said. “I think you now have been provided a good sense and a good look.”
Watch the full flag ceremony video on YouTube.