Talk means little at high school commencement

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

For a couple of hours at the end of their high school years, graduating students sit up straight and try to look dignified.

It's the least they can do after all the hardship and heartbreak they caused their parents and teachers.

Actually, a high school graduation is a momentous event, more so for the parents than the graduating students. It's a chance for that Kodak moment, an opportunity to snap one more photo of your son or daughter whether they like it or not.

The daughter of close friends of ours graduated Sunday from Central High School. Her parents threw a huge bash at their home, complete with a ton of food, orange and black decorations and even a video of those embarrassing moments of childhood that cause us all to laugh.

For the high school graduate, it is easy to see just how far you've come after watching the tell-tale video of yourself covered in paint as a child because you wanted to be a clown.

If it weren't for high school and college graduations, the mortarboard would be extinct. In terms of headgear, the mortarboard is anything but fashionable.

No self-respecting person would wear black, square Frisbees on their head. But add a tassel, and you're ready to graduate.

The great thing about commencement is that it's much shorter than the Boston Marathon.

The audience shows up to watch the students graduate. But before that can happen, someone has to make a speech.

Often, as was the case Sunday, several people have to make speeches.

The featured speaker at the commencement Sunday was high school teacher Bill Springer, who clearly has witnessed quite a few graduation exercises.

Any man who can mix the Gettysburg Address and a quote from President Clinton into the same paragraph is a proven commencement speaker.

Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman" quote ended up in Springer's speech, along with a jumble of quotes from other famous men.

Springer told the graduates that there are any number of commencement speeches available on the Internet. Naturally, as a reporter, I couldn't take him at his word. I had to check for myself.

As it turned out, Springer was right. There are any number of graduation-speech sites on the Web.

For $25.97, one site promises "relevant, proven and 100 percent risk-free speeches for your high school graduation."

The Web site says the speeches offer thanks to parents and staff. "They mention treasured memories of your time at the school and friendships you have made. They end with a hope that life will be good to the class of that particular year."

This Internet site even offers "lighthearted yet sincere poems" for the occasion.

Thankfully, Springer didn't take seriously any of the cliches.

He even managed to phone a friend on his cell phone during his speech.

He concluded his speech by throwing Frisbees into the cheering crowd of black-gowned, high school graduates.

As Springer knows -- when it comes to graduation, it's not the talk that counts.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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