Monday, June 04, 2018

Celebration and Civility

Yesterday I attended my son's high school graduation. It was a festive occasion that took place on the school's football field during a bright, blustery afternoon.

The graduates walked in with pride and seated themselves in front of their class speakers and administrators. Family members sat in seats and stands looking towards the dignitaries and graduates.  As a parent and member of the school community, I wanted to hear all the words and watch the ceremony with care, however near me were many who were talking, joking, and gesturing throughout the ceremony. At one point I had to talk to a group of young women who were spirited and chatting throughout the ceremony. I had a difficult time taking my eyes off a gentleman who appeared to be making contentious political gestures and comments throughout the event. In truth, I had chosen a bad seat as other family members and relatives did not notice this kind of behavior where they sat.

Six students, the high school principal, and superintendent spoke. All the speeches were different from one another, and as you might guess, later on family members reacted to each speech differently. The one I liked the best was not the one my son or brother preferred--just shows that we all hear and notice different aspects of speeches, and that's one good reason for having several people speak. I appreciated that six students spoke while some felt it was too many. Again variation in reaction.

Further as I think about celebration and civility, attention spans range too. In some cases people sat quietly throughout the ceremony, and in other places, people sat for very short amounts of time. It was unexpectedly cool on the stands so I'm sure that some moved early on just to get warmer.

All in all, it was a wonderful ceremony. As for civility, I talked to a family member about that later. She mentioned that in this day and age, there might need to be a short introduction to the ceremony and what's expected. Another family member noted that there may need to be one leader that takes the role of master of ceremonies throughout the event. I'm not really sure what's best as I've been to many graduations and there has been differences each time and no graduation seems to include elements that please everyone. I remember years ago sitting in the stands while an administrator talked on and on to the dismay of the people around me. His message was good, but not well received. On another occasion, unlike this one, there was more rowdiness in the graduate crowd, but this year there was great calm and demeanor amongst the graduates. And there was a time when many names were misread, and amazingly at this graduation it seemed like every name was read with care and accuracy which was admirable.

I will think more on civility and celebration in the days ahead. In general, rules of etiquette are good rules to follow. Simple rules such as listening when someone is speaking, pay attention, and don't fool or talk during a presentation are good rules to follow. Next time I attend a graduation, I'll arrive a bit earlier too so I choose a better seat--one where I can pay close attention to the speakers without a lot of distraction. Onward.