Through The Lens: Pomp and Circumstance
The Coronavirus has changed many of the activities we once thought of as typical. I’ll bet there is not one of you reading this column who has not said, “I wish things would return to normal.” Or similar words that express a wanting to return to the way it was before our world changed.
In all likelihood, the future will return each of us to a semblance of what we considered, normal. But, for this year’s senior class, a normal graduation along with caps and gowns looks to be fading. For twelve long years students worked towards the day when they would receive their hard earned diploma. For many, they believed the declaration of their accomplishments will be a gateway into life.
Fifty-one years ago I stood with other members of Magnolia High School’s Class of 1969 and received our diplomas. During rehearsal for the graduation ceremony, Principal George Mullet sternly told us something like, “If you kids don’t settle down and take this serious, I’ll cancel graduation and send your diplomas to your homes. I’ll bet your parents will not be too pleased you couldn’t pay attention and do this correctly.” Those may not be his exact words, but you get the idea of what he was saying to our class. Needless to say, he didn’t cancel graduation and I along with the other members of my class received our diplomas properly and dignified before our families and the waiting world.
Speaking for myself, I figured my diploma was the doorway to the world that awaited me. Looking back fifty-one years, I now believe graduation was also a final good-bye event. That evening, I said goodbye to friends, not realizing it was the end of my school days and my social world that went along with it. I had not given it much thought that for the better part of my life I had spent most days with the kids in my class, and that was now ending with the receiving of our diplomas.
I guess I figured like most summer vacations, I would still see some of my fellow classmates around town. Looking back now, I realize after graduation it was like dumping out a box of kittens. The kids I had spent so much of my life with had gone off in all directions of the compass. Some returned from time to time, but others headed towards the far horizon and never returned. Class reunions are supposed to be a chance to renew old friendships from school days. Unfortunately, each time I attended one of those gatherings, many of my classmates were unable to return to say hello. I will have to admit, out of fifty reunions I have only attended five myself.
I have been thinking about what I could say to this year’s graduates to help them understand what this pandemic could mean to them and what’s ahead in our future. After thinking about it, I decided maybe the best way to give some insight would be to write a message to my own grandson. Perhaps my words to him would also be some help to other graduates to understand this unusual time in all our lives.
To My Grandson Cameron,
On a Saturday morning not long ago, my cell phone reminded me, a very special day had arrived. If not for the pandemic your grandmother and I would have traveled to Ohio to watch as you graduate high school. We would have joined the rest of your family on that very special day. We would be feeling pride seeing you accomplish this first major goal in your life. It has been nearly eighteen years since you first came into our lives and during that time we have watched as you have grown into a fine young man.
Over those years like any good grandfather, I have on occasions asked what you intend to do with your life. You have replied to my inquiries that you were not sure, but maybe you would become a veterinarian. That made since because of your love for animals. Not long ago, you talked of sports medicine being a possibility for your future. I even once remember, you said you were considering the movie industry. I like to think that was in part due to my enjoying working with cameras. Whatever you decide, I am sure you will do your best to find your way in the world that lays before you. My only recommendation is that you find a career you find challenging and enjoy.
For the past twelve years, you have believed the doorway to the future begins with graduation and the receiving of your diploma. You now know, that is not going to happen for you and all the other seniors around the country. The Class of 2020 will be remembered as never having a normal graduation. Maybe in fifty years when you return for your reunion, it may still be a subject of conversation, but only as a part of history.
The pandemic questions we are searching for will have been answered. In the news of the today, you may have heard the world is on the brink of disaster. While others report the virus has been over blown by the media. I’ll not try and tell you what to believe, but understand every generation has challenges and this is the first you and your classmates will have to navigate to get to your futures. The sun will come up tomorrow and the world will be better because of you and all the seniors who are entering the world beyond school this year. Pandemics come and go, but the future of our country will soon fall to your generation. Think for yourself and things will be fine. Mary and I are proud of you and all the seniors around the world.
This worldwide pandemic will be remembered for many years by each of us. But perhaps, it will be long remembered by the Class of 2020 for what it took from them. I want to tell you, life in our world will return to normal if we all take the time to look forward and not backwards, Through the Lens.