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FLASHBACK: Graduation, the horizon leans forward - Odessa American: Celinda Hawkins

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FLASHBACK: Graduation, the horizon leans forward

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Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014 6:30 am

This weekend, more than 1,200 high school seniors walked across the stage in Odessa and received their diplomas and will now embark on the next phase of their lives.

Parents, family and friends clapped and cheered for the students and their accomplishments, marking this as one of if not the most significant milestone they have achieved in their young lives.

And the words of the late poet and author Maya Angelou, are inspiring on this occasion.

“The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change,” she wrote.

It hasn’t been too long ago, that a long standing tradition — a baccalaureate service — was held the day, evening or Sunday before graduation. The baccalaureate service also called “vespers,” originated at the University of Oxford in 1432.

This practice is no longer the norm in most places, due to the rulings of the United States Supreme Court regarding the separation of church and state, because such services are no longer school-sanctioned events.

The practice also called vespers was carried out in Brownwood as recently as 2005 and 2007, when my daughters graduated. In Brownwood, the optional ceremony was held in a church, not on a public school campus. And, apparently, the tradition continues in that part of the world.

Thirty-plus-plus years ago when I graduated from Permian, we held a baccalaureate service the day before graduation. It was a time of celebration, honor and prayer for the future. Members of the clergy, educators and students gathered for inspirational words, prayer, song and celebration.

This year, since ECISD has and must adhere to the law, the words “invocation” and “benediction” were removed from the program. Instead, the district referred to the “opening” and “closing.” Last week, parents, students and citizens voiced their concern during a protest at the ECISD administration building.

But students at the local ceremonies did pray, which they were allowed to do, and although I did not attend, I heard it was moving.

Kudos to the seniors in Ector County, and I would like to leave all the graduates with congratulations on a job well done. You are among the 3 million high school seniors in the U.S. to graduate this year.

And as they move the tassel on your cap to the other side, this signifies that you are moving on to the next phase of your life.

The late Nelson Mandela said “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

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.”

Yes indeed.

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 again to all the grads in the Permian Basin and I offer a prayer to send you on your way.

 “Lord, on this "commencement" day, 

let there be a beginning of my life. 

In the days of darkness, be my Light, 

so that in turn I can radiate your truth and your message 

of love, hope, and joy. 

In the days of blandness and of blahs, 

Lord, be my Salt, so that in turn I can fend off the 


the staleness, the mediocrity around me. 

In the days when I am flat on my back or fall flat on my 


Lord, be my Leaven, so that not only can I rise again, 

but also raise the downhearted to the celebration of your 


And Lord, thank You, for the school years, for the talents 

I received.”

Odessa, TX

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