Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Graduating with Class

Graduating with Class

I had the distinct honor of being invited to this year's graduation for the senior class of the Sir James Dunn Academy. Graduation ceremonies are filled with protocol and a bit of etiquette. Without these, the organizational elements would be totally chaotic. The graduation itself took place in the gymnasium and was beautifully decorated and carefully planned and executed. Walking into the school and seeing everyone all dressed up was so refreshing and really nice. 

It is always interesting to learn who is related to whom. One would think that after 17 years, I might have a clue about parents and their children, and in some case I did, but the extended arms of various families still had my head spinning. Graduations are one of those occasions we experience when we try to put aside any untoward feelings we may have about family members with whom we have an estranged relationship and focus our attention on the graduates themselves. 

Another part of graduations which I look forward to are the various speeches. This year reminded me of why I like them so much. For one thing, I am impressed with the facility people have of standing in front of an audience of strangers, speaking about a broad range of subjects about life, it's impending pitfalls, its moments of joy and the adventures that lie ahead for the graduates. This year's speeches were all short, punctuated with humor and seeded with wonderful advice. Those heartfelt personal messages are the just the kind of advice that is doled out in one form or another throughout the busy school year and often go unheeded. For some reason, perhaps because we are a captive audience, we pay closer attention at graduation. We actually listen and hear things we yearn to hear often.

The afternoon affords the graduates and their parents plenty of time to prepare for the Grand March, a local tradition dating back several decades. The Grand March starts off an evening of celebration. Formally dressed in a beautiful array of colorful dresses, tuxedos and suits, the grads and their parents walk arm in arm through Centennial Park and are announced before the assembled crowd, much like a formal cotillion. Girls are escorted by their dads, brothers or grandfathers, while the boys walk in with their moms, grandmothers or sisters. It is a highlight of the year for many people and this event is well attended. 

The tradition of graduation as a rite of passage is celebrated all over the world. Watching the baton handed from one principal to another, one MC to another, and one class president to another over the course of the years is proof of how important we as a society hold such matters. It is always heartwarming to see a class of school mates unite and perform as a group, including the entire class in the planned activities. An example of this was beautifully described in one of the speeches. Customarily the class takes a trip together as a fun extra curricular activity to punctuate their achievements. They usually go white water rafting. This year, however, one of their classmates is confined to a wheelchair and as a result would not have been able to participate. The class decided that it was more important to include everyone in the activity and chose an alternative which would allow for total inclusion. I mention this as an example of how we may all learn from the students whom we so often teach. Wouldn't the world be a more wonderful place if this same dynamic was carried throughout our daily lives and society as a whole?

The students demonstrated great individuality during the year. At graduation they come together as individuals and uphold tradition. This year's class was no exception. But above all, they demonstrated how they order their priorities. To my mind, they are doing just fine. If tomorrow's leaders were in that group of graduates, and my guess is that there are many, then we have much to look forward to. The teachers to whom parents entrust their children are commendable. Their guidance is working, and in no small part because they are allowing the students to help in the process. The future is bright. 

Congratulations to the class of 2010!