I went to two graduations this month.
I’m going to start with the second. It was hosted by a new, private school, and one that I believe truly cares about its students. The event garnered a small crowd, around two dozen people, all to celebrate one student, one of my closest friends.
Each and every person there was there because they believed in the man— not the boy, graduating. We all looked at him with a sense of honor, admired him, and gave him something that other graduations rarely have— the truth of ourselves. With so small a group, each member of each family in attendance, each friend who came to honor him, spoke their mind. There were tears not shed in sadness but in honor the man’s effect on all of us.
Everyone delivered some form of speech in his honor. Everyone did it as he deserved.
I loved it. It was sweet, it was touching, it was warm and every moment of it was true.
I had gone to another graduation to celebrate a girl a month earlier. She too is of extreme value to me. She stepped up to the podium to deliver a speech she had been required to make. She thanked many of her classmates and her teachers and her family and me though I was much the exception.
I loved it. She did not.
The girl succeeding her, and the girl she succeeded wrote similar thank yous. They were not from their own conviction but from the institution’s requirement. She spoke out of being forced to speak, and although her words bore value, it was as though she were an Olympic diver being made to walk the plank.
The schools had massive variants. The first honored the boy, truly and to its core. The founders both shed tears, and no one thought it mislead that they do so. The second honored nothing but treated the event as a marketing campaign. The show was like the unveiling of a product. “Look at the students we’ve cut out for you”. I loved those graduating deeply, but only one of these events felt just to that love.
Graduation is for many an admission of freedom, the last humiliation by the institution before one can be shoved off to their own right to live. Graduation as a celebration was in the graduation I went to today. The event I attended was a display not designed to discard nor market the institution but to honor and revere the student. The student may be a product of the school, but neither the teachers nor mentors nor families nor students saw it that way. The school was a product of the student, and the school recognized the honor which student deserved and had given them.
The girl later commented to me that graduation was something militaristic. I would choose to call it robotic. Her graduation and far too many like it are admissions by tradition. The graduation I attended today where all parties involved regarded one another with pride and joy and honor, where both family, student, school and faculty saw each individual in their system as critical and valued, was a true graduation. It was not the final forced march, but a celebration of one’s achievements as though they had never been forced.
Graduation should not be robotic and manufactured. It should be human and glorious.
Until next time,