And so ends another school year. I keep seeing across all the social media sites that the folks back home are getting out, graduating. The news channels are also showing clips of politicians and celebrities giving commencement speeches to graduating classes. Some are pretty funny even.
But it gets me thinking about commencement and valedictorian addresses in general. Those of us in the education world get to hear these speeches at least once a year. If you throw in the graduation ceremonies of friends and family and you can easily rack up some 5 – 10 end of the year speeches on life, joy, and the future. If you’re like me you probably can’t really remember any particular graduation address. My own high school graduation involved a preacher speaking in clichés and a valedictorian that was incredibly too nervous to give a speech. Now, granted, I was preoccupied with the anticipation of partying that night, but now that I’m looking back, I feel a little regret that I don’t have anything better to say about that hallmark moment.
Since I became a teacher and moved over to the other side of the education world, you’d think I’d look more favorably on the graduation ceremonies of those I had the pleasure of having in class. But honestly, it’s been more of what I encountered all those years ago in that stuffy gymnasium. Don’t get me wrong, I was super excited for my students and them moving on. I’m just saying the speeches always left something to be desired.
Back in 1997, I doubt that I could have done a better job. I do respect the courage it takes to get up there in front of a sea of people. That’s a tough thing to do. But humor me for a little bit and allow me to throw out some do’s and don’ts of graduation speeches for both the students and adults.
What I’m trying to suggest in all these rambling bits of advice is that a good mixture of hope, realism, authenticity, and creativeness could go a long way. I’d like to think I’d appreciate a graduation speech in this mold. But then again, as I mentioned earlier, my 18 year old self would probably be too focused on the after-graduation party to realize wisdom being imparted to me!