Writer’s Block: Commencement

By Corinne Wnek

Com*mence*ment (ke-mens’ment) n. A Beginning or Start

As a high school counselor, I have been to more than my fair share of graduations. Each one pretty much follows the same format. Yet, because each graduating class really does have a ‘personality,’ the student and teacher vibe at the ceremony can conjure up lots of emotion, from bear hugs, tears and good wishes to comments such as “I’m glad I’m outta here!” and “We’re glad they’re outta here!” Still, it is amazing how many people think of graduation as an ‘end’. They would do well to read the dictionary, which defines ‘graduation’ as a beginning.

This is worth remembering, especially for students who may have felt invisible among their classmates. The idea that ‘graduating’ means everybody gets a new beginning, allows students to evaluate the past four years and then decide how to make changes during the next stage of their life. It means that no one is a finished product at age eighteen, or in senior year or at graduation. Not even all those award winners.

That’s the irony of high school. You think you’re done, but you’re only just beginning. A good keynote speaker would say that to a class so that no one should rest on their laurels and no one loses hope for a better future. Graduation is a major milestone in life. It is a visible sign that society is achieving in the present and working toward the future. It brings generations of families together.

So graduates, this next part is for you. Are you ready to move on? I don’t mean to suggest that maybe you’re not done with high school or even college. But are you really ready to take the next step in your independence? That means you have to handle the responsibility that comes along with your new adulthood. Are you ready to handle money wisely? Can you say ‘no’ when you really don’t want to do something or go someplace? Can you prioritize your responsibilities and work toward goals you have set for yourself? Are you willing to try something new and worry about failing at it?

Can you ask for what you need and say ‘thank you’ when you get it? Do you really know how to talk to people with a sincere interest in their life because you have come to realize that you are not the center of the universe? Can you appreciate differences in people, in their culture, their language, their age, their religion and their dress? Can you forgive when you are hurt because you know that all of us, at one time or another, disappoints someone? Can you pick yourself up when you are feeling down because you know that everyone goes through rough times?

Parents, there is just one thing for you to remember as you celebrate your child’s graduation from middle school, high school or college, and that is, the Chinese philosophy of lasting gifts to our children, roots and wings; roots, for our children to always remember where they came from and all the people who helped them along the way, and wings, for the courage to find their destiny, wherever that may take them.

Congratulations to the families and students in the Class of 2011! You did it!

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