Graduation. It is tough for adults — I’ll agree with the late, great Erma Bombeck on that one.
“They go to the ceremony as parents,” she famously wrote. “They come home as contemporaries. After 22 years of child-raising, they are unemployed.”
I became officially unemployed last Friday as my youngest daughter walked across the stage at Strahan Coliseum at Texas State University. It was a proud moment indeed, and I dare say I may have been a wee bit nostalgic since I attended the university way back when it was known as Southwest Texas State University.
During this graduation of the mass communication department — I was surprised we did not have to listen to endless speeches — they kept it short. They got down to business because, they knew, the thousands of folks who packed the stands all the way to the nosebleed section were there to honor their loved ones. We were not there to have fun.
As comedy writer Robert Orben put it, “A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.”
During Friday’s ceremony at TSU, that was not the case as many of the grads decorated their mortar boards so folks from above could pick them out in a crowd. Some of these folks had Christmas lights and glitter adorning their graduation millinery. My daughter apparently didn’t get the memo. But that’s OK, they had a big screen up there so we could watch her receive her diploma.
Cartoonist and social commentator Gary Trudeau weighed in on commencement speeches, saying that they often will put folks to sleep.
“Commencement speeches were invented largely in the belief that outgoing college students should never be released into the world until they have been properly sedated,” Trudeau said.
The grads were released, and no, they weren’t sedated. I’m not sure if they all ran and jumped in the San Marcos River, but I hear that is the tradition.
At other college graduations across the country, the famous and not-so-famous usually are invited to impart their own wisdom to the grads. Woody Allen said it is clear “the future holds great opportunities.
“It also holds pitfalls. The trick will be to avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities, and get back home by six o’clock,” Allen wrote.
Some poignant thoughts to remember are those imparted by Susan B. Anthony:
“Sooner or later, we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved,” she wrote. “The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.”
In the coming weeks, Odessa High and Permian graduates walk the walk. You will hear “Godspeed graduates,” and wonder, “What does that mean?” Well, comedian Bill Cosby explains.
“People will frighten you about a graduation ...They use words you don’t hear often ... “And we wish you Godspeed.” It is a warning, Godspeed. It means you are no longer welcome here at these prices. “
By the way, if opportunity does not knock – Comedian Milton Berle said “build a door.”
Congratulations to all the graduates throughout the Permian Basin, and while you are reveling in your success, remember the words of Dr. Seuss in “Oh, the Places You’ll Go:”
“…You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
You are the guy who’ll decide where to go…”