The melancholy whimsical review of the graduation reflection speech. It usually goes something like this. " No more will we wonder why the gym and the lunchroom sometimes have the same odor. No more will we see our friends and work so hard to get our band, cheerleading, football, test cramming, routines down to perfection. No more will we concoct a secret plan to secure a prom date using Legos, barbecue sauce, and the blood of a chicken.We will look back on these times and remember that was the last time...."

Far too often we look at graduation as a finality. But as I have sat through several graduation exercises in my recent past I will offer this left-handed angle on the whole cap and gown tradition. For every "last time" of a graduation ceremony, there were just as many "first times" that occurred.

As I watched my son graduate from college a few weeks ago I sat next to a family from India. They had flown half way around the world for this event. Their daughter was the first female in their family to ever graduate from college.An event that in our country isn't a leap across a cultural chasm the way that this event was for that family. The tears on the faces of her Mom and Dad made it even more difficult for me to control my own emotions.

It was quite humbling to imagine the feelings of sending your daughter to the other side of the planet for four years. Then to see that expression of emotion as one of your children took the walk of a dreamer realizing their dream. And by doing so allowed you to walk vicariously across that stage with them.

Another attendee of that ceremony was lamenting loudly over the phone, " he is our first grandchild to graduate from college". There was an older graduate who I assume had put her education on hold to raise a family, for that small group of excited individuals it "was the first time our Mom graduated from college".

For me personally, my son is the first real and not pretend rocket scientist in our family. So, you see there are many firsts. Jack was our first child to graduate from college and the way my daughter is moving swiftly through her college career she could be the first person in our family to graduate in less than four years.

High school graduations offer just as many if not even more firsts.

I guess I am trying to offer this as a thought and maybe as a way to remove a lump in my own throat that has been there since early May. While there may not be covered wagons slowly moving across the prairie or people in spacesuits traveling out of the atmosphere at graduation, there are still plenty of pioneers.

There are individuals who accepted a challenge and bravely chose to walk an uncharted path that no one in their family had ever walked before. They met that challenge. They succeeded. They persevered. They are indeed the future and the promise of a better day tomorrow.  They are the first.