The Lessons of a Graduation

My wife and I are extremely proud of our god-daughter, Mary.  She excels as a writer, as a swimmer and most importantly, as a person.  As you can imagine, when we were given the opportunity to attend her promotion ceremony marking the end of her eighth grade year, we jumped at the chance.  I can’t believe she is going to be a Freshman next year.  It doesn’t seem possible.  And yet, there she was in her beautiful dress, smiling at us, taking it all in, on top of the world.  She’s a wonderful person and it’s amazing to realize that my wife and I have had the honor of seeing her grow up in front of our eyes these last 14 years. 

The graduation ceremony itself was a real eye opener for me.  After attending the ceremony, I am convinced that Scott school must be one of the most diverse communities in all of Portland.  As is the case with most graduation events, numerous graduates spoke about their time at the school and how much the school meant to them.  There is the inevitable internal snicker when you hear 14 year olds talk about the most recent three years being the most important of their lives, moments that will never be forgotten, cherished fond memories that will carry them over through the troubled waters representing their adult lives.  I understand the sincerity of the words at the moment they are spoken.  I remember all too well the nervousness of leaving the familiar confines of eighth grade and becoming a Freshman in high school.  But I would argue that most of us would rather be attacked by a pack of rabid wild dogs than repeat that toxic mix of hormones and social awkwardness known as middle school. 

Some of the most moving moments of the ceremony were ones that I literally couldn’t understand.  When a Tonganese girl made her speech in her native language I was moved by how much it meant to her and how much it meant to her family.  She had many relatives in attendance and when they weren’t showering her with candy wreaths or garlands of money, they were shouting her name at the top of their lungs at every opportunity.  Another girl spoke of her experience at the school in Spanish, again to cheers from her family and friends.  Another one of the students made a speech in his native Somali language.  This was a student body that was not only ethnically diverse but culturally diverse as well. 

As most of us know, ceremonies are often more for the family members than for those that are being honored.  As I looked around the room to the many smiling parents and friends of the graduating class, I realized the larger significance of the event.  Many of these children represent the first generation of children making their way through our education system.  Some of them already have achieved a higher education level than any of the other members of their immediate family.  These may be the first high school or college graduates in the family.  The event itself may seem mundane for some of us that have come to expect a high school graduation as a minimum achievement for our children.  But taking a larger view, the Scott graduation was a reminder of how lucky we are and the doors that education can open for our children.

We are so proud of Mary.  I know that over the course of the time my wife and I know her she will teach us as much as we have ever taught her if not more.  Her promotion ceremony itself was incredibly eye-opening.  Thank you Mary for inviting us.  We love you.


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