The request read…
“Hold all applause or any cheering until all graduates have received their diplomas. Every student graduating deserves our undivided attention and respect. Not every child has the good fortune of having lots of family and friends who can attend the ceremony. Though guests are there to support their individual graduate, the ceremony is for all graduates. Thus, we ask that you save your heartfelt applause and cheering until our principal presents the entire graduated class.”
Pretty clear don’t you think.
A month before the ceremony this statement was mailed home and an acknowledgement form stating parents and students read and understood the guidelines had to be signed and returned to school before a senior could receive a cap and gown. And then, in the program, the program that was handed out to every single one of the thousand people in attendance, this statement was written, in bold,
“Graduation is a milestone in the life of a student and his family. The dignity of the occasion can best be observed by refraining from whistling or applauding for any one student. Your congratulations can best be shown by applause for the entire class after the last graduate has been awarded his diploma.”
Finally, before the presentation of the diplomas, during the graduation ceremony itself, the principal made an impassioned plea to PLEASE honor and respect both the graduates and the solemness of the ceremony by following the request to not applause for individual graduates.
And do you think everyone could follow a simple, respectful rule?
Some groups stood and whistled, whooped it up and hollered and applauded for their graduate like they were at a football game and their team had just scored the winning touchdown.
Like they were the only ones in the building.
Like earnest requests for decorum just didn’t apply to them.
Like this event was theirs and theirs alone and they could act any way they wanted.
Now, I am not always Miss Follow Every Rule. I have been known to bend things occasionally. Like when we had the tree guy cut down the dead oak in our backyard without asking for permission like we are supposed to from the arborist that oversees the historic district in which we live. I was like, “Ask permission to cut down a dead tree?” That’s stupid.
Avoiding the red tape of city bureaucracy to expedite the removal of a potentially hazardous tree seemed to me the obvious thing to do. Besides, before I did it I applied the test I give to moments when I bend rules…
Does my not following this rule impact anybody else?
If the answer is no, then I sometimes bend.
But when you are sitting at a milestone event in the life of 109 young adults and 15-20% of your fellow attendees don’t feel like they need to follow the rules, that they don’t need to respect what has been asked of them, that they feel no need to protect the integrity of an event that isn’t even truly theirs, well, that really irritates me.
It really does.
At one point, after a particularly loud group of graduation revelers made complete asses of themselves, the principal paused the ceremony and asked again for refrain. But despite her plea, the outbursts continued.
I simply cannot imagine flat-out ignoring the request of the host of the event in which I am attending.
Moreover, the graduate whose name had just been called, this young person walking across the stage before a thousand people, this young person who had just worked their butt off to graduate from one of the Top Ten public high schools nationwide, I imagined them being mortified that their moment was marked by a show of complete disrespect, apparent to everyone in attendance, by their guests. Their people were completely ignoring the request made by the person whose hand they were about to shake and from whom they were receiving their diploma.
Is that how some people celebrate success? But acting like total failures?
And poor Officer Smiley, the school’s security guard that was in attendance. When I first spotted him I thought how nice it was that he was there to watch the students he has helped since Freshman year graduate. But the event turned into a night of work for him, going from group to group after an outburst. At one point I spotted him in the balcony with his arms up the air, facing a group with this, “what do we have to do to make you understand” look of exasperation written all over his face.
And I thought, there are people out there with absolutely no sense of respect. No discipline. No self-control. They apparently must feel entitled to do whatever they want the moment they want to do it with absolutely NO REGARD to anyone else and that really bothers me. Because we don’t live alone. We have to live together, as a society, and if we can’t follow the simplest rules of decorum, if we can’t hold our impulses any better than that, then, harshly put, we’re fucked.
So I am just hoping the kids are more evolved than quite a few of the adults. I hope they saw the trashy behavior of some and thought to themselves, “When it’s my turn to be in such a position I will not allow myself to behave in such a disgraceful way.” Maybe as intelligent and accomplished as these kids are, kids who have the discipline to make it through three and four AP classes a year will have the self-control to follow rules of etiquette and be respectful to others.
I think if they learned that one final lesson, on the night of their high school graduation, then they will have indeed completed a very valuable education.