Graduation speakers

by Terri Winder

Have you ever attended a graduation ceremony and thought to yourself, “That speaker did such a fine job--I wish his (or her) speech had never ended!”?

Me neither, although it would be an understatement to say that I have attended my share of commencement exercises.  In fact, I once suffered a fleeting temptation to contact the Guinness Book of World Records about the possibility of becoming titleholder for attending the greatest number of immediate family graduations. 

When our youngest child left Blanding Elementary School last year, she was our 17th child to graduate from that institution.  As our children have progressed through high school and college, the degrees are accumulating, as are the hours spent in graduation ceremonies.

Please do not misunderstand me.  We are proud of our children’s achievements and grateful to join them in their crowning moments. It’s just that I do not remember much of the programs.

I do recall times when the guest speaker acknowledged, “You did not come here to listen to me, so I will make this brief”, but they didn’t. 

I   recall some speakers who were inspiring, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I remember what they spoke about.  

And then there are the speakers who acknowledge everyone – sometimes individually – (honored guests, principal or dean or president, school board or trustees, faculty, staff, parents, students, ushers, ticket takers, custodians … ) to the point they have put everyone to sleep before they ever get to their topic.

My favorite graduation ceremonies have been those which were either very dignified and ceremonial, or short and fun.  San Juan High School’s recent graduation ceremony came very close to being a perfect mix. 

I always appreciate being able to say The Pledge of Allegiance at an event.  Something is definitely missing when we don’t publicly acknowledge the fact that it is our freedoms which allow us to even obtain an education.  

I am grateful we were given that opportunity at San Juan High’s graduation.  I hope it happened all over the school district.

Student body president Dillon Seely gave the most original talk I have ever heard, beginning with a well rehearsed joke in Navajo on bilaga’anas (white men), which was appreciated by the entire audience. 

Still, the most memorable speech I have ever heard was given at this spring at a Southern Utah University convocation by a man who will turn 104 years old on June 9.

This man walked to the podium unassisted (it was said he still has a valid driver’s license).  His speech was entitled, “How to Live a Long and Happy Life”. 

The answer to that, he said (with enthusiastic conviction), is to laugh.  He quoted psychologist J.B. Watson, saying that good things come naturally to people who are positive and who laugh. He testified that happiness does come from within. 

He asked the audience to laugh, and then asked them to do so again, getting a better response the second time.  His own laugh sounded as though he were St. Nick, himself. 

Then he asked if we didn’t feel better already, more happy, and indeed, we did.  After that, he sat down.  I guess that when someone is nearing 104 years old, they appreciate the value of time.  He wasted none of his own, nor that of the audience.

That speaker did such a fine job; his speech will never end.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
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