Monday, June 11, 2007

Not Just a Graduation

Went to a high-school graduation over the weekend. The program moved along smartly, with the usual Speechification from the usual folks. Some of the humor was pretty good.

The afternoon's ceremonies, however, were going to be more than just a graduation. They were going to create a rare bond.

Following the speeches came the calling of the names, the crossing of the stage, the awarding of the diplomas. You know the part--a few cheers from families, but mostly perfunctory: carefully cadenced calls from the rostrum, smiles, and the sound of footsteps on the stage.

Then came a young man's name. I'm told that he was a "5th-year senior;" he finished the required curriculum and went through boot camp during this academic year. He approached the principal at the center of the stage carrying a military dress-hat in both hands; the hat's top was carefully leveled. There was no slop nor slouch in this man's walk.

After his handshake with the principal, and now with diploma in hand, he crossed to the far side for his graduation pictures. Before he got to the cameras, he removed his graduate's gown and revealed his Marine Corps dress blues.

He put on his USMC white hat and stood at attention for his pictures.

The crowd, until then in near-somnolence, began to applaud, more and more loudly. The annoucement of the next graduate's name was drowned out by the claps, and the announcer (a bright young lady) grasped that she must pause her work. She stepped back from the mike.

That was the cue, and all 1200 of us stood and continued applauding the young Marine for a full minute. He stood, a bit confused, not used to being the recipient of the affection and respect of 1200 strangers. But he recovered quickly, and thanked us with a salute and a smile before descending the staircase on the way to his next duty station.

I imagine there were some dry eyes.

About 100 names later, another name was called, that of a young woman.

She did not cross the stage, nor greet the principal, nor collect her diploma, nor pose for pictures.

She had been buried last fall, the victim of a drunk driver.

More applause, 1200 standing, with eyes shining, for her and her family; she was a popular young lady who had been a contributor to the community and her school.

Half an hour later, the auditorium was almost empty; straggling members of the school band were packing instruments, and a few low-toned conversations took place between old friends; the stage-crew was unplugging and storing equipment and lights were going out. The air conditioning was taking effect once again, and the heat was slowly evaporating.

But more than a high-school graduation had happened here.

Two students--one beginning a dangerous journey, the other at rest from her journey in this vale, had unintentionally made real and present what all the Speecifiers attempt to describe in mere words, and what they sometimes even try to forge.

The two had brought communitas to the afternoon of those 1200 people.

Not just a graduation.


Crocodile Cage said...

Dad, that was the most touching post I have ever read on any blog.

Dad29 said...


I'm still trying to make it better.

If only I had Stingl's Muse nearby my keyboard.

Crocodile Cage said...

Being the computer dope that I am, I cannot figure out how to make a link that shows under your links, but I placed a post on my site directing people here. Now, all four of my readers will know to read this!

Billiam said...

That was way cool, Dad. Thanks. I needed that.

Disgruntled Car Salesman said...

Good stuff. Now sorry I couldn't make it.

Neo-Con Tastic said...

It was truly a beautiful experience and your words are a perfect description.

Janeabelle said...


You stinker, it's not fair to make me cry.

WICatholic said...

I am speechless, Dad29, and in total agreement with Crocodile Cage's first email. What a tribute to those two students~ I do NOT have dry eyes!

God bless!