Joyous weeks of late as parents, grandparents, relatives and friends have attended the graduation ceremonies for loved ones. Each phase of educating our newest generation is celebrated. Even toddlers going from nursery school to pre-K are decked out in miniature caps and gowns. The rite of passage begins.
On June the first my husband and I attended the high school graduation of our third granddaughter. (We are blessed to have SIX granddaughters and three grandsons.) As seasoned veterans of several graduations, we realized this one was not ordinary. Why? Because the mood in the gymnasium was unique and intimate. The principal of this well-respected Connecticut school lovingly delivered a personal message to EACH of the 80 seniors. With thoughtful tenderness he acknowledged the achievements/special qualities of each student, many of whom represented different nationalities and races. Can you imagine how proud every graduate felt or how many hours this educator spent crafting his talk? His vision for his students embraced building character, encouraging kindness, instilling courage, as well as providing strong academic standards. Judging by our granddaughter and her friends, my guess is that they have learned well.
The valedictorian was a handsome young boy whose parents were born in India. His speech was mesmerizing, filled with sincere gratitude for the opportunities and blessings afforded him: for his father, his family, for his teachers and for his private school education. He told us, “Every morning after I eat my Cheerios and before I leave for school, I take five minutes to sit quietly and pray to God. I thank him for what he has given me. Doing this settles me for the entire day.” With humor and humility, this young man reflected all the characteristics that any parent or grandparent could ever wish a child to possess. Only later did we learn that his father is suffering from terminal cancer. We saw this gentleman at the reception, standing tall and smiling proudly although attached to his portable oxygen tank.
As we left the reception to gather around a happy, boisterous lunch table with our graduate, her two sisters, parents and other grandmother, I could feel the love, pride and optimism emanating from each one of us. We love our grandchildren’s maternal grandmother whom they call “Nanny.” She is a recent widow. Not only is she vibrant and fun-loving, but she has been a perfectly wonderful mother-in-law to our son for over 25 years. In and of itself, this reality is very special. As one of my best, longest time friends has always said, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family!”
Educating youngsters to their full potential in today’s world is challenging. Sadly, not all graduates are as lucky as our granddaughter. Too many children come from dysfunctional broken homes. Too many fall through the cracks and end up not realizing their dreams. My fervent hope for all children is that one day ALL schools, public and private, will afford each student the very best climate for learning, growing, and thriving.
Who knows what lies ahead for youngsters of graduating classes in these United States. Who knows what futures they will have. Who knows whether our fractious political and social views will ever mesh, and who knows when skewed morals and values will find a more rational balance. But I am convinced of one thing: If all children are provided a solid education and taught Courage, Kindness, Humility, Integrity and Compassion they will land on their feet. If we as grandparents, parents, relatives, friends and educators infuse our young people with respect for each other, for the Constitution of this beloved country, then we may rest assured that our young generations will be successful in whatever career or calling they choose.
I am optimistic……and yes, I am still basking in the “Afterglow” of one beautiful graduation ceremony. Some days, in each of our lives, remain etched in our memories forever. And that beautiful early June day is one of mine.