Graduation weekend brings out the philosopher in people.
They quote Dr. Seuss.
They offer up platitudes.
They sing song late nineties songs written by movie directors about sunscreen.
I can’t do it.
Because as my tenth reunion comes barreling into town, I’ve got to be honest. High school is really just the beginning.
Oops. That sounded philosophical, didn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong. Graduation is an accomplishment, a point of pride, a milestone.
But once it’s over, once the tassels are removed from their pride of place somewhere in the no-longer seniors cars, graduation dwindles from milestone to stepping stone.
It was a foothold along the way, one that made the walk across the river possible, but it’s that next stone and the next one that helps you avoid the rapids.
Oh, there I go again.
I remember my graduation vividly still. It was hot (the trouble with New York State’s late June graduations), and the reminder that all girls should wear dresses beneath their white robes did little to help us as we sat on the stage, much higher than the rest of the crowd, where the humid air hung heavy.
I remember the boy I walked to and from the stage with. The song sung by our choir members, the yellow honor cords wrapped round my neck.
I even remember our guest speaker, who did what I’d never heard any speaker before him and have never heard once since do – he made it personal. He didn’t just make us laugh. He made it about us.
Because graduation is about the kids. And in all my years of covering commencement exercises, the success of planners, administrators and speakers at remembering that it’s about them has been split almost evenly down the middle.
Sometimes it’s about the kids. Too often it’s about the philosophy.
Those are the speeches no one remembers – at least not the kids, not a year on and certainly not ten years down the line.
They were speeches endured as stepping stones.
And when you’re facing your ten-year reunion, the first of what will hopefully be many, many reunions, you remember fondly what it was like to hop from stone to stone rather than plodding along, enduring them along the way.
You remember what it was like to find platitudes ridiculous and Dr. Seuss juvenile.
And you realize you’re now a grown up who reads Green Eggs and Ham nightly and tells your daughter she’s acting “like a bull in a china shop” so she better not “do the crime if she can’t do the time.”
In other words? Ten years on, and you realize putting up with backseat philosophers is part of the oompah pah of graduation weekend.
Ain’t it grand?
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