Monday, March 31, 2008

On Graduation Ceremonies

Three of my sons (two in high school and one in elementary) graduated over the past five days, and over the same period I have heard a total of six student speeches: three welcome remarks and three valedictory addresses. There were quite a number of speeches by the usual school administrators, and the usual one-by-one interminable march to hand over the diplomas to the graduates. The whole graduation ceremony takes up a typical four hours (of agony - for me at least), which a parent spends by anticipating and intently watching their sibling march on his turn for a fleeting instant, and the rest of the time idling by. Aside from my son’s turn and the valedictory addresses, I must admit the rest of the proceedings didn’t catch my attention at all. The rest of the time is spent with mostly wandering thoughts, chatting with my wife, and the impatient hope for the program to soon come to an end. A good deal of energy though, is spent by vigorously fanning oneself in the overheated and stuffy school gym, and my uncomfortable barong tagalog didn’t help any.

It’s a good thing I anticipated this turn of events, as I brought some handy literature with me to while away the time. While reading, I was half-tuned to the proceedings though, as I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to click my camera once my son’s fleeting turn came up on the stage. There was this one guest speaker though, who seemed to be delivering a wonderful speech, as the audience burst out in laughter occasionally. However I didn’t manage to hear what it was all about, as the sound system seemed to have been designed for bionic ears, and so I turned back my attention to my book mostly.

A thing or two must be said though of the valedictory addresses. They were mostly delivered with good diction and oratorical prowess. I tried to strain my ears to every word that was being said, as I wanted to get a feel what the best-in-class has to say. Mostly the three graduation speeches I heard had a common theme: gratitude to parents, extolling the school, and some exhortation to be the best that you can be. It’s not a bad idea, but in all instances, I had a feeling that some standard written essay was being read in an oratorical style, rather than a speech being delivered from the heart. Deep inside, I was expecting an impassioned speech for love of country driven by the love of God and fellowmen, but I guess I was dreaming.

All of which brings me to reflect that these graduates are the future of our nation, which our great hero Jose Rizal realized so long ago. Dr. Jose Rizal composed the poem “A La Juventud Filipina”, where he exhorted the Filipino youth to use their abilities and skills to excel not only for their success but also for the success of the country. Our youth - the hope of the Fatherland. It was in 1879 when Rizal wrote that poem, when he was only 18 years old, somewhat the same age of our high school graduates right now. Many generations have passed since then - and we are still hoping that the hope becomes a reality.

So much so for “education”.

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