Graduation is one term for it — the ceremony of passage that marks the end of a specific period of learning.
is to my mind the better word, alluding as it does not to a conclusion but rather to a beginning — not what’s behind, but what lies just ahead.
Through the course of a life, the
are what contain the excitement and promise.
In recent days we’ve had the pleasure of attending the commencements of three young men, the sons of longtime friends.
One was at a high school in a town with a population of about 1,200. The lad we honored was valedictorian of his class of 27. His university study will be in pre-pharmacy.
Ten days later, his older brother graduated summa cum laude in pre-dentistry at a ceremony with 234 University of Missouri classmates.
The third event was at an urban parochial high school. The class numbered about 150. Our young friend there aspires to a career in zoology.
To be present at the celebration of their accomplishments was inspiring, and also a bit chastening.
I’m abashed to say I have no recollection whatever of the occasions that marked my passages from elementary through high school, on to college and then out into the world.
The caps and gowns were long ago discarded. Probably there are yellowed diplomas somewhere, but I’d have no idea where to look for them.
What I do remember are commencements — my
The 8 o’clock English class my first day as a college freshman 160 miles from home
The excitement four years later of walking for the first time into the clutter and clatter of a big city newsroom
My bunk assignment in a barracks at the start of military training
Our first day in the country cottage where a girl and I began our life together
A publisher’s envelope and the note that brought with it, for the very first time, a check instead of a rejection slip
Those were my true commencements.
And for those young people we recently watched walk across auditorium stages on the way to the rest of their lives, I would tell each of them, if I could, that they have just begun to taste the best.
Ahead of them lies a richness that only now is “commencing.”