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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 5, 2007

The graduates are our hope

By Jo E. Prout

Graduation is a community event. Of course, the students who survived 13 years of brutal schedules filled with late-night sports practices and all-night, last-minute compositions think it’s about them, but we know better. Graduation is all about the rest of us.

I attended the baccalaureate service for my school district last week From the choir loft, I could see the families, the performers, the graduates, and the ministers, priests, and lay people from towns and villages throughout the school district.

We all watched the graduates process down the aisle to Purcell’s "Trumpet Voluntary," played by the organist who has performed at this annual ecumenical celebration since 1962.

There were 23 graduates attending, of the 100 graduates in the district. The tenor who sang "The Lord’s Prayer" shook his head in disappointment; the number of graduates at this religious ceremony has diminished greatly through his lifetime of attendance at baccalaureate services.

Times change and populations grow more diverse, but we were all glad to raise up to the Lord each graduate who walked down the aisle, no matter the number. We were even more pleased to see that many of them were also there to sing in the school chorus, or play with their church’s hand-bell choir, or read scriptures.

Through speeches, prayers, and song, we, the participants, tried to express to them how much they represent to us: The graduates are our hope, our chance for humanity to do good in the world. The graduates are our future policy makers and caretakers.

They are exuberant, unrelenting Life.

We celebrate their individual achievements, but we also celebrate the beauty in this world of life’s continuation. Those of us in the audience thank God for this blessing, but this feeling of promise and this understanding of life’s cycles can be appreciated by all peoples.

A new generation has arrived. They are equipped mentally and physically to meet the world. We come to place all our hopes for our futures together into a prayer for their success and happiness. We know the pain, struggles, excitement, and joys that they will experience. We hope that their troubles will be minimal and their triumphs great.

The minister tapped to deliver the message this year gave the graduates the key to achieving that goal; along with their future learning, they must embrace empathy. Empathy with their future peers, colleagues, or employees will lead to ethical work practices, he said. He said much more, but the graduates were tired, hot, high-spirited, and excited, and, like most young graduates, probably could not take in all the wisdom he tried to impart.

The minister’s message was ageless. The rest of us needed to hear it as much as the graduates. We were reminded that, in this uncertain existence, empathy with our fellow human beings will bring good to, and diminish dismay in, our communities.

Empathy with one another, as evidenced by commencement, baccalaureate services, and graduation parties, is a two-way street. We express our pride in the graduates, and they express their thanks and love in return. If they have learned to thank and to love, they have learned two of life’s most important and respected practices, and the communities they join will benefit tremendously.

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