To the 272 students who will take their final walk in Dragon Stadium Saturday, here’s a heartfelt congratulations. The ceremony is an affirmation of 13 years of hard work. To your parents and other family members who’ve watched you grow over the years, good luck. Good luck because for you it’s a bittersweet day filled with a range of emotions. These emotions will likely range from happiness and pride, to sadness and downright sorrow.
The pride and happiness are self-explanatory. Those emotions come from being excited for all your child has accomplished and the wonderful person they’ve become as they grew from a tiny tot into young - very young - adults. The sorrow is a little different. For while the students are excited to graduate and move on to another phase of life, parents are desperately wishing they could keep one foot in the past while simultaneously being excited for their future.
Your parents have long known this day would come. From the moment they brought you home from the hospital in a car seat that was way too big, they knew one day you would graduate from high school. It’s both a day of celebration and a stepping stone from one part of life into another, more independent one. Your parents know you growing up is inevitable but they’re going to miss the child that you were.
Be kind to your parents, because, while they knew one day they would have to say goodbye to that little kid who waved with tiny hands from the school bus window, high school graduation day is the day it seems to really happen.
It’s a hard day for parents. For on graduation day many parents are reminded of all the days that will never be again. The days of being able to scoop you up in their arms and throw you on their shoulders, pinching your cheeks, and reading to you in bed each night. You are trading footed pajamas for shirts from your designated college t-shirts, military uniforms, business suits or work boots.
This Saturday as you stand with your parents in your cap and gown, your parents will beam with pride in you. But, inside, they will also wish they had one more day to do those easy little things with you that brought you both so much happiness. No more gifts of stuffed animals that brought such delight to both giver and receiver. No more watching you round the bases of the t-ball fields as a similarly-tiny tot tried to tag you out. No more dance recitals with pink, fluffy tutus and you watching the teacher, standing just out of sight of the audience, for guidance.
Remember, your parents and family members see in your face now the face of a young man or woman on the cusp of independence, but what they really see in their minds is Pre-K graduation day and the face of that four-year-old parading down the church aisle with a tiny cap and gown.
You are now a person who can find your own path and reach your own goals independent of your parents.
Congratulations, graduates. Few other days of your lives will be as moving as this one. Remember the day well and give your parents some slack for all the tears.
And as you move forward in your lives, remember there are a thousand paths in front of you. Dare to be different. Recognize you have the power of choice at every moment available to you: choice in what you do for work, who your friends are, even what your attitude will be for the day.
Be conscious, stay awake and live with your eyes wide open. Own your life and career. Choose your commitments wisely. Laugh every day and always keep love and compassion in your heart.