The chatter in the auditorium ceases and the crowd respectfully stands as the pianist taps the introductory chords to “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Ushers appear first, elegantly striding to the music, as the proud spectators crane their necks to see their graduates. Cameras begin to flash.
Those scanning over the crowd from the center sections can see little. Absent is the line of mortarboards and tassels usually visible as they move toward the stage. “Pomp and Circumstance” plays on, nevertheless. Frustration marks the faces of those who cannot see.
Guests in the upper seats and along the aisle, however, can see just fine. Mothers smile sorrowfully, thinking of their little boy or girl leaving them. Fathers’ chins quiver, unsure how to channel the raw emotion.
The procession seems to be moving slower than expected, but no one complains. All irritation fades immediately into Ooohs! and Aaahs! when the little troupe finally emerges from the crowd.
The kindergarten-sized graduates can hardly walk. Most can only manage to shuffle in their ridiculously oversized graduation gowns. One hand is needed to bunch up the excess fabric, while the other hand is needed to keep the graduation cap from covering their eyes.
Their size does not diminish the solemnity of the event. On the contrary, every little graduate’s face shows a mixture of pride, joy, and abject fear: They clearly understand that they are graduating from high school today.
As the final graduate climbs into her seat, the music stops. The little boy delivering the invocation carefully ascends the stage, his graduation gown trailing behind him like a royal robe. Completely invisible behind the podium, he blesses the “gwaduates” and thanks everyone for joining them for this special occasion. And from the first diploma to the last, parents crowd the stage, capturing the coming-of-age of their babies as they graduate from high school . . .
This month, as our graduates cross the stage, it is almost impossible to see them as anything other than the children whose hands we held on the first days of school. So in order to better prepare ourselves and our graduates for this moment, maybe we should consider changing our perspective, but on the other end of the process. Instead of struggling to see our graduates as adults, perhaps we should insist on seeing even our youngest students as graduates.
Maybe the image of kindergartners in oversized robes and giant hats is not hyperbole after all. Since a public school’s primary mission is to create Career-Bound Citizens, we need to see all of our students as graduates, from the very first day they step into school.
Just imagine the power of a community full of children with vision, children who know how to both cherish each stage of life and to anticipate the next. Children of purpose, even from the youngest age. Children who know that they will one day graduate, raise our grandchildren, and prepare the next generation to do the same. Just imagine if all of our students knew they are Career Bound Citizens, whether in 1st grade or 12th grade. It is a powerful concept, even if that means they have to grow into those funny hats and gowns.
This is the second Sunday of the month, so be sure to pray for the safety of our schools as you also lift up our graduates! (In preparation for this year’s graduation, I am resharing some past articles about graduations. It really is the best night of the year for every high school!)