Graduation day is one of the few occasions that brings a smile to the faces of everyone in a community, regardless of whether they know a graduate. It is an occasion when all of us share in the joy — and pride — that graduation day marks in the lives of our young people. For older folks, graduation day recalls a time when we too, were young and full of life.
However, graduation day marks a bittersweet moment for parents, friends, family, and teachers, as well the grads themselves. As befits every turning point in our lives, it is a time of mixed emotions of joy, sadness, and reflection. Although the graduates and those close to them are looking forward to the exciting future that lies before them, at the same time, they will be looking back on the passing of their carefree youth and of the friends and experiences that have shaped their lives to this point.
The young women and men who receive their diplomas no longer are considered “youths” in the eyes of the world. They are full-fledged adults who have been deemed ready to assume all of the rights — and responsibilities — that adulthood implies.
The graduates, most of whom have turned 18, can vote, run for public office, enter into contracts, be tried fully as adults in the criminal justice system, and fight and die for their country.
For the parents of the grads, watching their “little boy or girl” proceed to the podium to receive his or her diploma will be a poignant moment. No doubt every parent will be thinking of the sentiments expressed in the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from “Fiddler On The Roof:”
Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older
When – did – they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they – were – small?
Although economists these days tell us that the value of a high school diploma is not what it was a generation or more ago, the graduates should keep in mind, as they contemplate venturing out into an uncertain future, that their mere presence on the podium has proven that they have the ability and the determination to achieve whatever goals they may set for themselves.
We came across a news item from one of our sister publications, The Winthrop Sun-Transcript, from June 24, 1898. The article, which reprinted the Class Ode for the Winthrop High Class of 1898, is as timely today as it was 120 years ago, and sums up the feelings of all of us on graduation day.
The years pass by in swift array
We cannot check their onward flight;
The moments that were ours today,
Have passed forever from our sight.
Yet while the course of life moves by
We too, must never lag behind;
But work and strive as best we may
To aid and benefit all mankind.
This we must do, or soon too late
We think in sadness of our loss,
For “Each is Master of his Fate,”
Though some must bear a heavy cross.
And when the race of life is run,
This life that holds so much for each
Shall come the gentle words, “Well done!”
As we at last the goal have reached.