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Tag Archive: graduation

May 23

The commencement speech I can’t remember. From my archives first published in The Examiner, an eastern Jackson County Missouri daily.

graduation girlIt is graduation time, and therefore, inspirational speeches about how to live one’s life are profluent. I am feeling nostalgic about mine.

From Dr. Seuss to Steve Jobs, there is plenty of advice to be absorbed at commencements.

Great speeches, great quotes, great words by which to guide a young graduate’s life.

But do we pay attention to the speaker? I wish I had.

I am certain that our commencement address was inspirational, if not prophetic, but I didn’t hear a word.

I would settle for recalling the title of our commencement address back in 1965, but alas, I cannot remember much about that evening.

Well yes, there is one thing–my shoe. You see, I was consumed with looking for my suddenly missing brand new, white high heel pump, not with listening to the speaker.

Here’s what happened.

The new shoe rubbed my foot so badly that I slipped it off during the speaker’s address. Voila! Just like that it disappeared and stayed gone throughout the senior class president’s speech, the announcement of our class flower and colors and through special numbers by the junior class girls vocal group and our award-winning high school trumpet trio.

I panicked but continued to smile and to keep a brave face on despite my outright terror at the idea of walking across the stage with only one high heel shoe and having to hobble lopsided.

I whispered, begging to my neighbors on stage, “Please, find my left high heel pump. Hurry.”

It was going to be my turn soon to walk across the stage and shake hands with our superintendent who would not think it funny at all that I had only one shoe.

Additionally, there would be my mother to contend with later, and I didn’t even want to entertain that thought.

What should I do, I worried? Kick off the other shoe and walk barefoot across the stage? It was 1965 and we didn’t do such things then. That didn’t start happening until the 90s, did it?

I pleaded with my friends in the back row, but they thought the whole thing hilarious and believed that I probably had it coming anyway.

The sneaky complicit ones in the back row watched this spectacle play out delighting in the fact that the shoe bandit was slick. No one in the audience saw the heist, or so they later said. The senior girls remained mum, while some senior boys, Robert, Steve, Harvey and Stephen in particular, pretended they knew the identity of the culprit.

One of them told me it was Hugh.

Hugh shook his head no, but he did produce the shoe and pass it down the aisle just in time for me to walk across the stage to receive my diploma. I laughed, my friends laughed, and everyone thought it was great fun.

The shoe caper was history, I thought.

Epilogue: Last year I attended my 45th high school class reunion. Sitting across the banquet table from me was a classmate I hadn’t seen in years. He said hello and grinned, chuckling to himself, “You don’t recognize me, do you? I’m Hugh.”

“Hugh,” I asked, “Hugh of the graduation shoe caper that almost got me in big trouble?”

“What do you mean,” he said. “I didn’t take your shoe. I’m the one who got it back for you in the nick of time. I saved the day.”

“Steve told me you took it,” I said incredulously.

“Do you mean that for 45 years you blamed me for taking your shoe when it was probably Steve along,” Hugh laughed.

“By the way,” he continued, “Do you happen to remember the name of our commencement speaker and what he said? I can’t remember a thing. I was too busy trying to rescue your shoe.”

May 19

The commencement speech I can’t remember.

It is graduation time, and therefore, inspirational speeches about how to live one’s life are profluent. I am feeling nostalgic about mine.

From Dr. Seuss to Steve Jobs, there is plenty of advice to be absorbed at commencements.

Great speeches, great quotes, great words by which to guide a young graduate’s life.

But do we pay attention to the speaker? I wish I had.

I am certain that our commencement address was inspirational, if not prophetic, but I didn’t hear a word.

I would settle for recalling the title of our commencement address back in 1965, but alas, I cannot remember much about that evening.

Well yes, there is one thing–my shoe. You see, I was consumed with looking for my suddenly missing brand new, white high heel pump, not with listening to the speaker.

Here’s what happened.

The new shoe rubbed my foot so badly that I slipped it off during the speaker’s address. Voila! Just like that it disappeared and stayed gone throughout the senior class president’s speech, the announcement of our class flower and colors and through special numbers by the junior class girls vocal group and our award-winning high school trumpet trio.

I panicked but continued to smile and to keep a brave face on despite my outright terror at the idea of walking across the stage with only one high heel shoe and having to hobble lopsided.

I whispered, begging to my neighbors on stage, “Please, find my left high heel pump. Hurry.”

It was going to be my turn soon to walk across the stage and shake hands with our superintendent who would not think it funny at all that I had only one shoe.

Additionally, there would be my mother to contend with later, and I didn’t even want to entertain that thought.

What should I do, I worried? Kick off the other shoe and walk barefoot across the stage? It was 1965 and we didn’t do such things then. That didn’t start happening until the 90s, did it?

I pleaded with my friends in the back row, but they thought the whole thing hilarious and believed that I probably had it coming anyway.

The sneaky complicit ones in the back row watched this spectacle play out delighting in the fact that the shoe bandit was slick. No one in the audience saw the heist, or so they later said. The senior girls remained mum, while some senior boys, Robert, Steve, Harvey and Stephen in particular, pretended they knew the identity of the culprit.

One of them told me it was Hugh.

Hugh shook his head no, but he did produce the shoe and pass it down the aisle just in time for me to walk across the stage to receive my diploma. I laughed, my friends laughed, and everyone thought it was great fun.

The shoe caper was history, I thought.

Epilogue: Last year I attended my 45th high school class reunion. Sitting across the banquet table from me was a classmate I hadn’t seen in years. He said hello and grinned, chuckling to himself, “You don’t recognize me, do you? I’m Hugh.”

“Hugh,” I asked, “Hugh of the graduation shoe caper that almost got me in big trouble?”

“What do you mean,” he said. “I didn’t take your shoe. I’m the one who got it back for you in the nick of time. I saved the day.”

“Steve told me you took it,” I said incredulously.

“Do you mean that for 45 years you blamed me for taking your shoe when it was probably Steve along,” Hugh laughed.

“By the way,” he continued, “Do you happen to remember the name of our commencement speaker and what he said? I can’t remember a thing. I was too busy trying to rescue your shoe.”

May 08

The best gift on Mother’s Day is to take her advice

“If at first you don’t succeed, do it like your mother told you in the first place,”
(Author Unknown).

Some of us are slow learners when it comes to heeding and understanding our mothers’ advice. In fact, it can take decades.

I know because I am 61 years old (I do not mind saying), and I am just now doing what my mother told me to do in 1969.

“Wear your cap and gown and go to your college graduation. You will regret it if you don’t,” my mother advised 39 years ago.

Did I listen?

Of course not.

It was the 60s and wearing a cap and gown was “so establishment”.

Certainly, some graduates did listen to their mothers back then. However, at that point in time, I was head strong, independent, and shall we say, too rebellious to pay attention.

My post-graduation employers, Ben and Ludmilla Weir of The Examiner, joined in my mother’s chorus and told me to “walk across the stage” to receive my diploma rather than receive it by mail.

Once again, I did not listen.

As I said earlier, some of us are slow learners.

But eventually, I came full circle.

This past weekend, I had the honor and distinct pleasure of presenting a faculty award and making a short speech at a college commencement.

Imagine my “déjà vu” when I was told I would be wearing a cap and gown signifying the university where I graduated. The hood colors on the robe would designate my degree and field of study.

After 39 years I was finally walking across a college commencement stage wearing a cap and gown and could not have been happier about it.

I should have listened to my mother in the first place, however.

Therefore, my advice comes freely here and now to all prospective high school and college graduates–don your cap and gown and do not miss your own commencement exercises.

Yes, the temperature inside a stuffy gymnasium will be hot. Yes, the speaker may be boring. Yes, the entire affair may seem juvenile to you. Yes, high school or college is already “so yesterday”.

But a graduation ceremony will never seem silly or frivolous to your mother.

Taking her advice could be the best Mother’s Day gift you could ever give her.

Note to moms: give this story to offspring if you need ammo.