IT was the youngest of my four children who was graduating, so perhaps it was inevitable that I would find myself gripped by sobs.

Tears flow freely in my family; Still, what was this?

I felt time hurrying on, accelerating towards the exit, I felt pride in her achievement and joy in her radiance.

I thought of the long and winding road from her birthplace in Paris to California. I remember her at her bar mitzvah telling everyone that she disagreed with God, and thought of my parents, now gone, laughing at that.

This baby of mine has never been one to sugarcoat her views.

THERE was something more to those tears : remorse. I could have been a better dad, more present, more patient, more understanding, less consumed by the next deadline. Yes, I could.

It's not what school a child goes to that makes the difference, it's the amount of love a child receives that builds the surest foundation for happiness. Not for success, however that is measured, but for happiness.

Sure, I could have done worse, but that's no excuse. There's no point in taking stock unless it's unsparing; and there's no other way to change.

My three other children attended Yale, St Olaf College and Boston University. Believe me, there are a lot of good schools in America.

I was in Lagos, Nigeria, on assignment when my oldest called me she'd gotten into Yale. She said she was going to think about it.

''What?'' I said. ''Yes,'' she said, she wasn't sure; she might accept a place at Brown or elsewhere, I was outraged.

How ridiculous that outrage now seems!

One of the pleasures of growing older is the shedding of ambition.

TIMES change : When I graduated from Oxford with a second-class degree, having gotten a scholarship to my high school and an Exhibition in Balliol College for academic excellence, my father called me into his office at Guy's Hospital in London.

''This is the first time in life that you've failed,'' he said. He was referring to the fact that I had not gotten a first-class degree.

His verdict crushed me, but I have forgiven him. To be a parent is to fall short. What's unforgivable is not to strive to do better.

That's writer Roger Cohen at his very best. The operational research on great writings, continues. And The World Students Society wishes the family the very best. 


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