Monday, June 18, 2012

Message to grads: It’s your world now

Men and women serving in the military have a special bond that ties them together even after they put their uniforms aside. There is another bonding in our country which embraces young people, parents and grandparents as well as relatives and friends – to wit, the vast audience who attend graduation ceremonies.  

Graduations are rightful recognitions of past accomplishment as well as an exciting first page for a new chapter in the book of life. Each ceremony combines sighs of relief from those who have passed their finals with parental boasting about their offspring. There are other players involved

in the moment of course, particularly the teachers who have nurtured the young men and women who will now be moving on. Then there are the grandparents (many still trying to figure out where the time went when their own kids, not their grandkids, were gracing the graduation stage) relatives, friends and certainly the speaker of the day. It is no easy thing to provide guidance and inspiration to restless spirits chomping at the bit for the post-ceremony parties. It is also a lifelong lesson for graduates – don’t believe any speaker who says he/she “will just take a few minutes.” We audience veterans know those “few minutes” can stretch from here to eternity.                

There are surely electrifying speakers taking the podium at graduation day ceremonies around the world, but the fact is they are few and far between.  Most speakers are well meaning ladies and gentlemen who having drawn the assignment are doggedly determined to do the best they can. Good for them! If you have to speak at a graduation, here’s a tip: Keep it short. Like most sermons or homilies in church, shorter is always better, and shorter than short will make you king or queen for the day. Nobody will remember what you are going to say anyway, but they will remember you FOREVER if you make them suffer unreasonably. It was true this time round for Bryce, Kelly and Carolyn just as it was for you, for me, for everyone else. 

Young people today are conditioned to being congratulated for everything. From kindergarten on up, they receive a prize for something, even just being there. So if you are going for the whole package, that is both the awards and diploma events, be prepared for a very long day. 

Scattered among our ceremonies this time round were prep school graduations. I’m old school when it comes to graduations – caps and gowns for one and all because they are great equalizers. There is greater leeway with prep school attire however – and greater adventure for parents. The sea of white dresses for the young women range from Snow White to near-Hooters.  And many a parent/mother is getting an unnerving preview that the kid who almost drove her crazy is now a women not too far removed from being a bride.  As for the young men, nothing much has changed – the traditional blue blazer, the knotted tie askew, pants cascading down around the ankles.  One soul behind me murmured “for $40,500 a pop, he could at least have combed his hair.” 

Ah well, not to worry, it is their world now, not ours.  It will all work out in the end.

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