This day, when our seniors cross the stage to receive their diploma, always causes me to reflect on the meaning of Graduation. Meaning that I find monumental and liberating but also frightening and paralyzing. I watch with a degree of envy as the Class of 2019 steps out of the solid world they have known forever to embrace all the newness of tomorrow. From time to time I consider my own ‘graduation’, although a few years off, certainly on the horizon. I wonder, how will I step forward? How will I face inevitable challenges and happy surprises? All the unforeseen and unplanned despite my best calculations? I watch each high school senior mount the stage, study the surety in their stride, follow their upward gaze, listen as they cheer each other on, and wonder, can I emulate their optimistic adventuring spirit? Can I be that audacious? Smile at each dawn?
A few years ago I wrote about graduates. In the ensuing years I thought that was all I ever wanted to say about that topic, that edge of time, that walking off process, that bravery. Until now. Because as wonderful as the notion of moving on is, it is also terrifying. Often impossible. Sometimes only accomplished by crawling. And stopping. And being nudged until you crawl forward again. As we applaud those who boldly walk and do so with ease, there are many who can not. Theirs is a walk of anxiety and missteps. Of not showing up. Of hanging back. Of not joining in. Of fearing what lies ahead far more than driving on. Their achievements seem to pale in those celebratory moments. What of them? I wondered as I sat in the packed gymnasium filled with graduates and their families.
Two weeks before my high school seniors graduated, I asked my AP English Literature students to write their own Valedictorian Speech. Much like past years, the actual Valedictorian and Salutatorian were in the class, but for their benefit, as well as a way for all the rest to express their ideas, they all wrote and then recited speeches. I was so moved listening that I am compelled to share snippets from a few of them with you. Their words are about hope, and after all, that’s what we need: day and night, simply hope. Continue reading