by Jonathan Gramling
The Struggle for Excellence
I have to admit that I am partial to Hollywood films about newspapers or whose major characters are newspaper people.
Probably my most favorite of the genre is True Crime starring Clint Eastwood who is given the job of doing a feature piece
on a man who is scheduled to be executed that night. And as Eastwood’s character reviews the background for the story
and talks to some of the witnesses, he comes to believe that the man is innocent and races against the clock to prove
the man’s innocence in spite of the fact that everyone believes the man is guilty and won’t lift a finger to help him.
And so Eastwood is totally focused on the story in spite of the fact that he has gotten fired from the newspaper because
he didn’t just do a feature piece. His wife is leaving him because of his focus and his womanizing. His car is breaking
down as he races to the publisher’s house late at night with a witness who can prove the man’s innocence. In short, the
man’s whole life is crumbling around him as he stays focused on the story.
And he does get the execution stayed and he writes a possible Pulitzer Prize story and the man is freed. But Eastwood’s
life doesn’t come back together after the man is set free. And in the final scene, Eastwood and the man with his family
see each other from across an outdoor mall. And they look for a while and then nod. The man goes off with his family. And
Eastwood says, ‘And the cheese stands alone.’
I especially relate to that movie at this time of year. For about six weeks, I put my own life on hold to produce this
Graduation issue. There are a lot of moving parts to it with almost 400 students in the Hues Row of Excellence and ads to
be solicited and graduation events to cover and university graduates to cover. I must gather all of this information and
photos on everyone else’s time and so it demands my whole focus and time to get it done, while also meeting the accounting needs of my non-profit neighborhood
And during this time, I have gone to one social event, had my car break down and got towed twice, once when it broke down and once when the condo complex I
live in had my loaner car towed because I didn’t have a sticker on it. My landline has been on the blink and I haven’t been able to get it fixed. I had an argument with
my son. I haven’t seen friends, to speak of and I am probably overdue with most of my bills and my cell phone could get cut off any minute because they misplaced
my check. It seemed everyone was partying on Memorial Day except me.
I don’t write this to ask for pity. I don’t want it. It’s just the price that I have to pay for excellence and a price that many others have to pay as well. Often times
success doesn’t come without a price and the world and society don’t move forward without success. Someone always has to pay the price.
And it is something that I can relate with in terms of the price that some of the graduates who are profiled in this issue have paid for their own academic success.
Without planning it this way, three of the graduates whom I have profiled are immigrants. One of them is a Dreamer. They have all left something similar to take on
something unknown or foreign in order to achieve and have a better life. One of the students is a first generation student. And so, being a person of color — and a
woman of color in the sciences — she was studying in an environment where many people didn’t understand her or made assumptions about her and her family had
no idea of what she was going through. For her, in some ways, “the cheese stands alone.”
And in spite of the odds, she has succeeded and will, I have no doubt, move on to bigger and better things. But she did have to pay a price to get there.
And so I know that I have paid a price to somehow, knock on wood, meet my print deadline and get this issue out. I am tired like a long-distance sprinter who is
propelled toward the finish line despite sheer exhaustion.
And I feel like I had succeeded in what I was trying to do, put on a graduation celebration, in print, of all of the wonderful young people who have attained their own
educational goals and are moving on to the next phase of their journeys through life. Whether or not a single paper gets picked up in the newsstands over the next
two weeks or no one finds it of value, I will still feel good about this paper.
And while I was by myself for most of the Memorial Day weekend as my son headed to Milwaukee to spend the holiday with extended family, I wasn’t alone. Over
the course of five days, I had approximately 400 graduating seniors of color to keep me company. We had to expand the Hues Row of Excellence to two 12-page full-
color sections. We had about a 20 percent increase in the number of students participating over last year.
And so, I thought about and then wrote about 400 students, appreciating the things that they had accomplished during their high school careers. And they have had
fine careers at that. Totally focusing on that for five days can be extremely difficult and you can go through some emotional changes as you try to stay objectively
focused and give each student their due.
There is always a point when I write these profiles that I start feeling that I wasted so much time in my life because I write the stories of some of these students and
realize that they have already accomplished more in their 18-21 years than I have in 65 years.
Some of these students are doing fantastic things and show so much potential. And in the end, I feel good after putting together this mosaic of academic excellence
because of all of the talent and achievement. I feel that our future is in good hands.
Back when I first started doing profiles for graduating seniors of color with a 3.0 GPA for The Madison Times, I usually had about 80-100 participate. That was back
in about 1996. And even when I started the Hues Row of Excellence back in 2006, I had about 60 students participate. It is wonderful to see the participation grow
because more students don’t mind letting their excellence lights shine and there are more overall students whom we can profile.
What is really encouraging is how many students have taken up careers in the STEM field. The two students profiled on this page have taken up zoology and
biochemistry. One wants to save our wildlife from extinction. The other wants to save people’s lives in the medical field. These are some fine magnificent
And so we at The Capital City Hues salute the Class of 2018. Go forth and do great things!