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11 June 2007

Devils or Angels?

You know, nothing says graduation night like the smell from a nearby hog plant hanging in the humid June air, while all around joyous graduates celebrate with their families.

Well, that was the scene (and smell) I was greeted with as I emerged from the Agri-Expo. center, located in the seat of my rural school's county. And in a way, this was all so appropriate.

Commencement ceremonies bring a range of emotions and thoughts, but one thing I'm always struck with is the feeling, for once, that all the ugliness, bitter feuds, petty jealousies, and backstabbings have evaporated, and that all the graduates finally, in their moment of glory, get it. As with the past commencements I've witnessed, I had this sense again Friday.

This particular commencement also had a rather dramatic and poignant moment. Probably because the principal begged and pleaded with family members to withhold catcalls, gestures, and cheering until after all the diplomas were handed out (this has been a constant problem in past years), the audience behaved well (with two minor exceptions). Once the diplomas were handed out, the hootin' and hollerin' took place, as usual. But in this venue the graduates' families were all seated behind the student body, staring at their backs. So when it came time to move their tassels, the principal told the graduates to stand, turn around and face their families, and then do the tassel thing. When they faced their families the place erupted, and it was truly moving.

But then there was the other side - the hog stench side. Two of the speeches given by the "top four" contained inappropriate comments that took shots at the school or certain teachers, or mentioned wild parties and trying to leave a toilet in front of the school during spirit week (who checked off on these speeches?). We found out just before the ceremony that one girl had bootlegged copies of a slide show DVD that our sweet secretary makes for the seniors and sells to them for a reasonable cost. And there was the special privilege of watching six unwed mothers cross the stage in one night (I know - at least they graduated).

In the end, frankly, this was a sorry senior class - the sorriest I can remember since I have been at the school. These things fluctuate(next year's class is terrific by comparison), but I hate to say we are foisting this particular group on the world.

On a more positive, and unrelated note, a former student dropped by to say goodbye today and brought me some of her mom's multi-layered chocolate cake. Gotta love southern folk.

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