Norman Knight: A few words for the graduates

June always seems to be a particularly packed month of celebrations and observations.

Weddings, birthdays, Father’s Day, Summer Solstice, Flag Day and so on. In our family’s case, this June is a graduation ceremony and celebration. Becky and I are proud grandparents of our eldest grandson, Atticus, who just graduated from North Central High School.

This year’s NC seniors were over 850 strong. That’s 850+ names to be pronounced (correctly) as each graduate walks across the stage in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum for their personal moment of acknowledged accomplishment. From “Pomp and Circumstance” as the senior class filed in, to the final whoops and applause as the now graduated individuals made their way out of the coliseum, the spectacle was organized and efficient. As career educators, Becky and I both had an appreciation of what it takes to make that happen.

800+ young people. The family and friends of those packed in, all wanting to watch their special student crossing the stage, crossing from one world into another. I was happy to be there to share in our family’s smiles of joy and pride, and at the same time exhale a small sigh of relief that one more notable step into the future has been taken.

One thing we noticed is how the speakers didn’t speak too much about the differences between students. Yes, there were a couple of achievers who were singularly recognized. This is right and appropriate for such a ceremony. But the primary focus was on the important step forward each and every graduate was today taking toward a new future.

We family members sat for hours just to hear that one name, just to watch the changing of the tassels from right to left, and to contemplate the symbols of movement from one place to another. I was focused on Atticus and his part in the ceremony, of course, remembering who he was over the years. But I found myself mentally wandering down other paths during the two-hour celebration.

For example, I thought of the word “graduate” as a verb. I remembered how as a young English student I was told that it was more proper to say, “I was graduated from North Central” rather than “I graduated from North Central.” (Although my teachers would have used “Center Grove” since that was the school I attended.)

To complicate matters, some speakers will say “I graduated school,” rather than “I graduated from school.” To me, the most interesting thing about these language disputes is how some people waste much energy arguing over such things. Language changes and grows on its own. We can make “rules” but if they don’t sync with how people actually use words, can we really call them rules?

I looked around the large space that we were sitting in (In which we were sitting?) and starting ticking off the many times I had been inside. I’ve never attended a graduation in this place, but I have been to my share of concerts at the Coliseum. The one concert I didn’t see was when the Beatles played in September 1964. Alas, a regret I carried with me for a long time in my younger days. Still, to me, it is a great space filled with memories.

When the ceremony was over, the crowd was herded out of the building and onto the grounds for family photos with the proud graduates. The building has been the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum, the Pepsi Coliseum, the Fairground Coliseum and today it is the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Lots of changes over time.

The young graduates will surely experience lots of changes.

May the changes be positive.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected].