Tuesday , September 2 2014
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THE VALEDICTORIAN

By Monte Lazarus

Bengoshi@comcast.net

The event was a high school graduation at an undisclosed location in an undisclosed state, noted for its rather oversized governor. My spouse and I ventured north to witness the graduation of one of our favorite grandsons. An added bonus, or so it’s said, was to mingle with assorted great grandkids (some greater than others – one spent five days just grinning at me).

In the stands at the high school football stadium it was sunny, bright and crowded. The graduating class was 408, give or take one or two. One non-diploma receiver was a slightly inebriated kid in the stands with cap and gown who proudly stated “I ain’t walkin.” The students filed in to the school orchestra playing “Pomp and Circumstance” over and over and over and over like a broken record. It may have been the only tune they knew. After about an hour my wife nudged me and said: “This isn’t too bad, they’re ready to hand out the diplomas.”

“Not so fast,” I mumbled, “We haven’t heard the valedictorian yet.”

Shortly thereafter the valedictorian mounted the podium and the pain began. Nay, “pain” is an understatement. I think I’d prefer waterboarding. The valedictorian, a fine looking, distinguished scholar, athlete, outstanding civic contributor and all-round popular girl lacked only one thing: the ability to prepare and deliver a short, interesting speech. Of course, this is the curse of all valedictorians. For some reason they have to remind their classmates and their parents, grandparents and various insignificant others, that their class is the best and brightest of all which preceded them, and all which will follow them; that they all face a brilliant future; that their parents are perfect; that their teachers were all above average (like Lake Woebegone) and that they will always remember Dear Old [fill in the blank] High School is the Finest in the Land.

That’s the usual speech, and there must be a “Cliff’s Notes” publication explaining it. However, this year’s valedictorian embellished the usual speech with a careful recitation of every event of her school experience, beginning with her first day when she tripped getting off the school bus, and dropped her books, and was overly excited, and was not sure what high school was going to be like, and, and, and, and …

The sea of caps and gowns down below began to squirm while those of us in the stands began to: (a) fidget, (b) mumble, (c) twitter or tweet or one of those things or (d) sleep. Unfortunately, the noise in the crowd kept waking me. After 57.18 minutes my wife awoke to ask if it was morning yet. Shortly thereafter the valedictorian gracefully surrendered the podium to desultory applause. She was followed by some local political celebrity who droned on for another 18.3 minutes, reminding us why we were witnessing the graduation of tomorrow’s leaders and heroes. We were so mesmerized by the remarkable display of oratory that we neglected to applaud.

It was finally over, and we happily congratulated The Graduate, who beamed as he looked forward to his big party. In this venue there was a small glitch. For some reason the Graduation Gods had decided that graduation should take place on Wednesday, but the party was scheduled for Saturday. My uneducated guess is that those wise Graduation Gods, in their infinite wisdom, decided that it was important to let us have three full days to ponder and digest the deep meaning and implications of those inspirational speeches.

The good news is that we took leave of our senses and spent the time with two very adorable great grandkids, and even had an opportunity to visit the Crayola factory, and learn how to scribble-scrabble with the kids and learn all about crayons. One of them was so entranced she said: “Look, Elizabeth, Pop-Pop (that’s me) is doing everything we do!” True. I finally learned how to use crayons. It was exhilarating.


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