Graduation – It Isn’t The Ceremony I Remember [Opinion]
Back in the dark ages of the late 1900’s, let’s call it 1980 to be a bit more precise, there was a ceremony to mark the end of 12 years of education. It was called high school graduation.
It was a stuffy affair with fathers stuffed into starched white shirts, their neck fat lopping over their too tight collars and their neckties barely reaching their belt buckles. Mothers were covered in something called a girdle that proclaimed 18 hours of control and comfort yet provided neither. Children were scrubbed, suited, dressed and combed and told to BE QUIET!
The graduates filed into the gym wearing their black caps and gowns. The band played the traditional graduation song and everyone applauded politely. The Superintendent of Schools spoke, a student led the group in prayer. The valedictorians made their speeches of hope, dreams and thanks and then the diplomas were handed out.
At each change of speaker a polite applause would momentarily fill the venue and the ceremony continued. When all the graduates had received their diplomas the tassels were moved and hats were tossed in the air and a robust round of applause filled the air. That was the graduation of my youth*.
This past Saturday, my son Jack graduated from Lafayette High. The ceremony was a cross between Family Feud, The Price is Right and ESPN’s College Gameday. Gone was the decorum and sanctimony of graduation. In its place was a crowd that was slightly more subdued than an early Friday night gathering at Cowboys.
The band did play that old familiar graduation song and as the faculty and staff filed in to the Cajundome, but as soon as the first student made his entrance into the venue it became a wild screaming free for all.
Parents were shouting children’s names. Entire families made huge posters that spelled out the name of their graduating loved one. At least one person brought an air horn, yes an air horn like you might use on a foggy boat trip across Vermilion Bay.
Each time the speaker at the podium paused to collect his or her thoughts there was a scream from the audience, SHAWNDRICKA, blast from an air horn, LaTARVIS, COURTNEY WE LOVE YOU.
Then came the actual presentation of diplomas. Each kid should have had their own entry music ala WWE. Some kids got just a squeal or two, other kids had entire sections of the Cajundome cheering for them. It was like the Jerry Springer Show with long dresses and square hats.
Was it wrong for the audience to behave in this over zealous manner?
For me I felt it was disrespectful of the achievement. However, I am wise enough to know this graduation had NOTHING to do with me. It was about my son, his colleagues and their achievements and how they chose to honor that was really none of my business.
So instead of being an old stick in the mud and hurumph hurumph about it all. I sat back and looked at the kids’ faces when they heard their family cheering for them. The smiles were huge, the look of pride was immense and the moment was worth savoring. This was 12 years, dozens of projects and book reports, hundreds of tests and report cards commencing in a brief moment that each graduate could own. It was actually pretty cool.
Sometimes things, even stuffy old ceremonies, need to change and whether or not we think they change for the better doesn’t matter because this wasn’t our moment to celebrate to begin with.
* I didn’t actually attend my high school graduation, I was the afternoon DJ at my hometown radio station and I felt being on the air was a lot more important than standing in line for a piece of paper. Yes my Mother did yell at me…A LOT!