Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pomp and Circumstance

I spent last Sunday at my nephew Sam’s high school graduation. Simultaneously, across the country in California, my niece Rachel also graduated from high school. The last time I went to a high school graduation ceremony, it was my own, so it was a long time ago. The only thing I remember was that it had rained the night before, and our folding chairs were wet. Fortunately Sam’s ceremony was held under a large tent.

The theme for the speeches at Sam’s graduation was “Do your best.” I’m not sure if there is a central repository for graduation commentary, but somehow all four speakers gave some iteration. I was disappointed by “Do your best” because it felt a little trite to me. They didn’t ask me to give a speech, but I entertained myself by trying to imagine what I would say to a group of high school graduates…

Dear Class of 2015,

While your graduation today is indeed important, what happens in high school stays in high school. Thirty-three years later it won’t matter if you never went to the Prom or if you missed catching the winning pass in the football game. Keep moving forward. Life doesn’t happen in the past.

Be thankful to your parents who made many sacrifices (both time and money) so you could go to hockey practice, wear a North Face jacket, own an iPhone or simply have lunch money. Be kind to your siblings. They don’t mean to be annoying and if you’re lucky, when you grow up, they’ll be your best friends. Family matters.

Find your passion! Do something that delights you every day. Volunteer! Vote! Participate in the community around you. Get a summer job! Put your money in the bank (at least some of it) to help alleviate those immense college expenses.

Doing your best is important, but sometimes it won’t be good enough. Failure is important too. Sometimes we learn best from our mistakes. I like to say, “Good judgment comes from experience and a whole lotta that comes from bad judgment.”

Work hard in college. Take advantage of all the opportunities you are offered. Try a new sport or learn a new language. Do an internship. Study abroad in an exchange program. The next four years will be your time to shine!

What advice would you give to the senior class of 2015? What do you remember from your own high school graduation? What’s the best advice you received at graduation?

To see photos of my beautiful niece and my handsome nephew, go here.


  1. You know I cannot remember the speech, other than it was done by senator Bob Packwood (the infamous touchy feely senator). I like your speech it is much better than do your best.

  2. I don't remember any of the speeches, but I do remember it was outside, pouring down rain. Every time we stood up we had to dump water off of our chairs. People could not see in the audience because of other people's umbrellas. My party was afterwards and I had to change into my senior shirt and jeans from my dress I wore to graduation. I also looked like a drowned rat with soaking wet hair in most of my pictures. I hated high school! College is defiantly a chance to break the mold and find the true you, who you really want to be!

  3. wonderful advice in here. The family stuff, doesn't always work but other than that I wish more addresses were real like this. Tell students what you have learned over the years, give them a heads up. I might add, you are joining the world already in progress... my friend's father always told us our needs are more important to us than to anyone else so deal with challenges yourself. I would ask them to consider what they have to offer an employer, not what the employer has to give them. What do they have to contribute to the world not what can they get that's easy.
    Don't worry too much, keep trying, make decisions and live with them.
    Be kind first.