No one goes for the speaker

Like many of you, I was in a stuffy, packed, high school gymnasium this past weekend, attending a graduation ceremony for a class of bright-eyed hopeful young people. All of which were waiting breathlessly for one moment—for the tassels to be moved and the class dismissed into the fresh air.

Sadly, it’s never for the honored graduation guest speaker and his or her wisdom he or she can impart.

It’s been 22 years since my own high school graduation and I couldn’t tell you one thing about the honored guest speaker, or who got what scholarships. I would have to look in the scrapbook to see if the Chapman High School Class of 1996 had a motto, a flower, or what those might have been.

That day was a blur of a stuffy, packed school gymnasium, scratchy graduation gowns, and worries about how my cap would smoosh my hair or if I would remember to “shake with the right, accept with the left.”

I was worried about meeting the last yearbook deadlines, and about the words to the music our musical vocal ensemble would sing for the ceremony.

I was more worried that graduation Sunday about not getting overheated and fainting than I was about listening to any speaker.

But I can tell you what I do recall from that day.

I remember my teachers helping our class get organized, quieting nerves, doling out hugs and straightening caps before we walked through that door and onto our futures.

I remember looking out and seeing my mom and dad beaming from their bleacher seats, and the red cowboy hankie my dad passed to my mom for her tears. And then how he took it back from her and quietly dabbed his own eyes.

I remember my older sister coming home from Montana to surprise me—even though she swore she wasn’t going to be able to make it. And I remember my brother taking time to clean up the farmstead for my party to make it special.

I remember taking hundreds of photos with friends and neighbors. But the one I treasure most is a simple shot of my grandparents and me. Three short months later Grandpa was gone and that’s the last photo of us together.

Look, graduation speakers go into the job knowing that their words will likely never be remembered, and that most everyone is just wishing for them to speed it up because the party’s waiting.

I really do feel bad for them but that’s the gig.

So, if you happened to have been the honored guest speaker at my graduation in 1996, just know that somewhere deep in the recesses of my brain, your message stuck.

If it makes any of you feel better—oh the places I did go, I went forth and built upon the foundation my teachers and family set for me, I have always kept the values they instilled in my heart, and I’ll always remember fondly my time in those halls.

Class dismissed.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].

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