We’ve just crossed the season when new high school graduates are loosed upon the world. This one is a bit more tender for me. I attended the Platte County R-3 graduation ceremony on May 17. These events are bittersweet when young people you’ve watched grow up walk across the stage, especially among them one you’ve parented. Graduation season seems as common as April rain unless you know the graduate. Then it’s a mystery how life unfolds and grows and changes. You’ve watched the changes every day. But up close they’re hard to measure and mysterious. A cap and gown suddenly draws a line. Parents saw this coming but still feel a bit stunned. I felt this and saw it in the faces of other parents. If wishes were cash everyone in the Class of 2014 would be spectacularly successful. Parents and relatives and friends watching the young people walk the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance” shower the young folks with hopeful thoughts. It’s a start. But most of those wishing know how difficult life can be. But they also know this is a lesson best learned by experience yet to come. The speeches were good. Outstanding grads addressed the crowd. They are confident and accomplished. It seems like just yesterday they were in a junior high play. Faculty in attendance were proud and perhaps the most confident adults in the KCI Expo Center. Or was the pride mingled with relief that another school year is past? Regardless, we thank them for all efforts on the youngsters’ behalf large and small. When you’ve not been to very many graduation ceremonies, seeing so many grownups in the long faculty gowns and sashes seems a bit like borrowing from Hogwarts. But such formalities our teachers are due, as education is a difficult profession and we are blessed in Northland schools to have so many who practice the craft so well. Thank you. This year’s R-3 ceremony had a new twist. For the first time graduation was broadcast over the Internet. Students helped staff the cameras. I had kinfolk who could not attend who watched. What an amazing world this has become. A technology advance in my day was a color senior photo sent to relatives in the mail rather than black and white photos that were the norm just a few years prior. But at this diploma night, people sent pictures and video of grads instantly via their cell phones. We are woven ever more closely and instantly together. Whether this makes a better world is likely up to the new graduates. How will they use all that’s at their fingertips? The famous advice given in the 1800s was “Go West Young Man.” Henry Ford and his automobile changed the world in the early 1900s and go-getters entered manufacturing. My generation laughed at the line in the 1960s movie “The Graduate,” when the advice for young people was “plastics.” Those who ignored such skepticism now seem to rule the world. I don’t know what compass setting to give graduates now beyond go forth and prosper. The world is changing too fast to make any direction seem certain. But I’ll try. Sincerity and effort lead to good places. People do matter. Goodness is lasting. Faith helps. All I can do is cast one more wish upon those who now find themselves owning a cap and gown and a piece of parchment in a fancy binder. May love, truth and beauty light the way, lift you up and lead you on, forevermore.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.