Gerlach 2010 Graduation Speech
Sheesh: why not just call me a "dubious person of uncertain profession?" In any case, it was a great honor, and a good time was had by all including the always cheerful Baby Cassidy. For your enjoyment the text of my speech:
Graduation: The Passage Into Adulthood
Good Evening everyone. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be here today to witness the transition from childhood to adulthood of these four outstanding young people: Nick Vanosdal, Stephen Chason, Tyler Rinehart, and Daphne Reynolds. (Especially Nick and Daphne: congratulations you two, you made it.) In commemoration of this occasion, I thought it might be a good time to clarify why the ritual of graduation is important, what it means to step away from one’s childhood and into adult life, and what parts of childhood are important to bring forward into adulthood in the hopes that they will keep you eternally youthful in your hearts.
Every culture has its rituals. In fact, in many ways it is ritual that defines culture, giving it shape and form. Birth, marriage, and even death all have their rituals, as does the transition of a child into an adult. In America high school graduation is one the ways in which we mark this transformation, acknowledging it not only as a rite of passage, but also as an accomplishment achieved by the individual using his or her God given abilities.
In other words: you four have earned this. It wasn’t just given to you.
It would be easy for you graduates to be cynical about the ritual of graduation. You put on a long robe, wear a funny hat, listen to people give speeches, and get an official looking piece of paper suitable for framing. Probably you don’t feel any different today than you did yesterday. But such cynicism would be unwarranted. This graduation is a chapter header in the story of your life, a punctuation mark in the paragraph of your existence. It’s important because you are important and because without punctuation, life becomes a single, unsatisfying, and impossible to understand run on sentence.
In short, we are here to celebrate you, and to celebrate with you on this occasion. Feel free at this time to consider us a supporting cast in the movie of your life, because today we – your parents, teachers, and other adults of your community – are here for you. And because tomorrow… your going to have to go get a job.
This concludes your high school years: that uncertain end of childhood. I remember during my final two, miserable years of high school being told that I should be enjoying myself, because these were “the best years of my life.” I’m going to let the four of you in on your first adult secret: those were not the best years of your life. Now is the time where things start to get really interesting: where opportunity, adventure, and yes responsibility begin the unique and often satisfying commingle that will typify much of your life henceforth. Where you get to go out into the wide world and discover who you were always meant to be. And don’t worry: you were meant to be somebody. Now it’s up to you to find out exactly who that might be.
Don’t be concerned: if you need to come back here for a while, we’ll be here. If, after going out into the world on your voyage of discovery, you wish to return here and join us, we’ll be happy to have you. Know that you have this community as a fixed point on the map of your lives. Of course, don’t expect it to be precisely the same. The people who were your teachers, the people who are your families, and other adults of this town: as of now we’re just people like you, making our way through life as best we can.
And that is another part of the doorway you’ve just stepped through. You just moved from being someone else’s responsibility to being responsible for yourselves. Eventually, ready or not, you will in turn be responsible for others. (Trust me: it’s not as easy as it looks.) One day, if you are very lucky, you may even sit where your parents sit today, feeling the pride in your own child they feel in you.
Finally, what should you bring through that doorway as you take this final step from the world of children into the world of adults? There are many useful things. Innocence, of the thoughtful kind that some people are fortunate to carry throughout their lives. Imagination, which is a profoundly useful part of any profession. A sense of wonder at the world, which will serve to keep you young should you live to be a hundred. And compassion for others, which is the kernel of all wisdom and the wellspring from which grows a family of your own.
In conclusion, congratulations on your graduation Class of 2010: not only from high school onto your further education, but from the final stage of your childhood into the first stage of your adulthood. Say a final goodbye to the life you have known for the last four long years, and prepare to embrace the life that awaits you. For it you do that, that life will embrace you in return.
-Jason Walters, 2010