High school graduation time: both over-rated and fondly recalled


Another high school graduation week is upon us. Seventeen and eighteen-year old students all over the nation will be marching down their respective aisles, having endured weeks of practicing and hearing “Pomp and Circumstance” being played over and over again by young bands not always gentle on the ear.

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

Our sons and daughters will have also tried hard to write down something funny and memorable in all of their friends’ yearbooks, told a few select and grateful teachers that they are actually going to miss them, collected as much cold-hard-cash as they possibly could from all their relieved relatives, and spent at least one night absolutely determined to party-hearty until the sun came up.

No more will they be spending their noon hour in a quad or a socially segregated school cafeteria where the cheerleaders, athletes, intellectuals, those in school government, and even the hoodlums all had their special little set-aside areas where they gathered to eat and talk over their common problems and experiences. And maybe best of all, no longer will the hardcore unpopular, that unfortunate group of outcasts represented by the different, the soon to be really successful, the shy and introspective, and those too smart and wise even for the intellectuals, have to put up with a daily existence all too often defined by how cruel and insensitive young people can be to each other.

For my money, I have always thought that high school graduation (and the four often torturous years which lead up to it) is the most over-rated, and yet somehow most fondly remembered, rite of passage in a person’s youth. And when I hear someone my age say that their high school years were the best time of their life, I secretly question what kind of sadly uneventful life they must have lived.

Anyway, I was talking to a longtime friend about all this the other day and she said, “But don’t you at least enjoy going to your class reunions?”

“I’ve only been to one,” I answered, “and the most interesting part was that all the beauty I had remembered the popular girls having had somehow faded, while many of the unpopular girls had grown up to be really attractive, both inside and out. I think that may be one of those little jokes that God likes to play on us from time to time. Oh, and it was also interesting to see how most of the really tough (mean is probably the more accurate word) guys I went to high school with seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. I think what might have happened to them is that once everyone had graduated and got a real life, they all ended up on more or less the same street corner, with no job or future and no one to impress and beat on except each other.”

“You know,” said my friend, “I think guys and girls experience high school in very different ways. Me and most of my friends were into things like getting good grades, meeting the right boy, going to the dances, getting along with our teachers, having slumber parties, cheering the team on to victory, yelling really loud at spirit rallies, being friendly and saying hi to everyone we met in the hallway, that sort of stuff. In other words, we were having fun while you poor guys were doing all of that stupid testosterone stuff.”

Although I have very few fond memories of my high school years, I think there is one really great thing about all graduations, be it from a high school or a college campus – the commencement speeches! And for all of you local graduates who just might thumb through the News-Ledger this week, here are a few excerpts from past graduation speeches that just might be worth checking out:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition.” — Steve Jobs

“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.”  –George Saunders

“You have about 30,000 days in your life. You are already down to around 23,000. Don’t waste any of them!” — Drew Houston

“You can be either a passive victim of circumstance of an active hero of your own life. Action is the antidote to apathy and cynicism and despair. You will inevitably make mistakes. Learn what you can and move on. At the end of your days, you will be judged by your gallop, not your stumbles.” — Bradley Whitford

“Being pre-approved for a credit card does not mean you have to apply for it.” — Stephen Colbert

“Listen to your inner voice, as long as it doesn’t lead to crime.” —  Lisa Kudrow

“Darling, just change the channel. You are in control of the clicker. Don’t replay the same bad, scary movie.” — Arianna Huffington

“Life is not about warming yourself by the fire. Life is about building the fire. And generosity is the match. If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. But if you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” — Larry Lucchino

“Respect people with less power than you.” — Tim Minchin

“Always remind yourself that you are stronger than you seem, braver than you believe, and smarter than you think.” — James Carville

“Your life will have many chapters, complete with crazy characters, villains and a plot you can’t even imagine as you sit here today. It’s going to be a lot like a ‘Scooby Doo’ episode.” — Shayin Alfonsi


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