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James R. Stout

High School Harry Graduates

            On Friday May 29, 2020, it will be the 46th anniversary of my graduation from high school. So much has been said via the TV news, Facebook, Yahoo and Google news, and other places how terrible it is that most of the high school graduations this year have either been canceled or totally altered due to Covid-19. I’ve read a lot about how disappointed the graduates are and how they are feeling somehow abused. Now, I don’t want to sound uncaring or hard-hearted, but my feelings about this is that it’s not that big of a deal. The graduates should be happy about graduating more than an over-blown ceremony that won’t mean much to them in the years to come. Maybe it’s just me. If you read my blogs often, then you know that I possess an excellent memory. Therefore, consider my account of the night that I graduated from high school.

            There were approximately 725 graduates that night. We all met in our caps and gowns in the school auditorium prior to the graduation ceremony. We had assigned seats and we were given last minute instructions by our class principal. Finally, the time came to march into the stadium and take our seats in the bleachers while a rather loud version of “Pomp and Circumstances” was played. Remember me saying what a great memory that I have? Well, just to show you that the whole thing wasn’t really that big of a deal to me, I’ll list below the few things that I do or don’t remember.

  1. I do not have a clue who sat beside me on either side. For that matter, I don’t recall anyone that was near me.

  2. My main concern throughout the ceremony was that my cap was a little too big and the slightest puff of wind would blow it off my head. I had to hold it in place most of the night.

  3. I have little recollection of who walked across the stage. In fact, I only recall two other people. My then girlfriend and my best friend.

  4. I know that there were a bunch of speeches and so forth, but I can’t tell you one thing about what was said. My then girlfriend was our valedictorian, but I don’t believe she delivered a speech. I honestly don’t recall.

  5. The adults on the stage that I recall were our class principal, the school principal, and the district superintendent. I’m sure there were more, but I don’t recall them.

  6. I have a vague memory of the row that I was on being directed to stand up and begin our turn to walk down to the stage. I had to hold onto that cap the whole time. Right up until my name was called and I walked across the stage. I had to hope it wouldn’t go flying onto the football field.

  7. Sometime during the ceremony, we had a streaker run buck-naked across the football field with two policemen in hot pursuit. It was hilarious and certainly the highlight of the evening. I honestly can’t say exactly when it happened. I remember feeling sorry for the graduates while it happened because the class principal kept on calling out names and nobody could hear her for all of the laughter.

  8. I remember being handed my diploma, which wasn’t but a rolled-up piece of blank paper, and then exiting on the other side of the stage. My best friend’s father was standing down there and as I left the stage he yelled, “Way to go, Randy!” I never heard the yells that my family told me they made when my name was called.

  9. Following the close of the ceremony most of the graduates threw their caps into the air. I didn’t because we were warned that if we didn’t return the cap and gown, then they wouldn’t give us our diploma the next day when we went to the school to pick up the real one. I didn’t want ANYTHING to keep me from getting out of that place. As it turned out, they had a big huge box on the football field, and we were told to just throw the cap and gown in the box. Oh well.

  10. My parents had put together a small informal gathering at their house for me, Diana, and Lonny and we all had a piece of cake. I do not recall a thing after that gathering. I cannot tell you what I did or what we did etc.

  11. The next day I went to the school and had my diploma in hand within a few minutes.

          That’s all that I recall about my graduation. I couldn’t begin to tell you what I wore under the gown. I don’t recall driving to and from the school. This is from someone who so clearly remembers minute details about so many things. Yet, the graduation ceremony from high school really wasn’t that important to me. The diploma was. Being finished with grade school was. I was ready to take on the world even though I didn’t have a clue how to do that.

          So, to all of those kids this year who are upset over the way things have turned out, you’ll likely have a clearer memory of graduating than I did. In the years to come, you’ll realize that a graduation ceremony isn’t that big of a deal. Maybe it feels like it at the time, but so many other things are going to eclipse it. Getting married, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the birth of a grandchild, and all the things that fill our lives will be much more important to you. Congratulations on graduating, but there’s a whole lot of living to do yet and one day you’ll look back on graduating from high school and what you will remember is the friendships you had and perhaps will still have and the pride of completing something that in reality should be a requirement of every person in America. Cue Mr. Pomp and Mr. Circumstance.

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