Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2018

Graduates: Don't forget where you came from

By Brooks Taylor


Mt. Pleasant News

One more rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

I am not complaining, I love that song and could hear it 15 times in May without flinching.

There is something about the melody creating a mood. It momentarily takes me back to my high school and college graduations. Neither were eventful and both were more of a relief than a cause for celebration.

High school graduation was on the last Friday night in May, more years ago than I want to admit. I was fortunate in that my dad was school board president that year so I received my diploma and handshake from him. No hug, though, he wasn’t the emotional type. My parents hosted a small gathering at the house afterwards, an event that pales in comparison to the parties they have now.

College graduation was much the same with the exception of the smell of alcohol on the classmate sitting beside me. Obviously, she saw graduation as a reason to celebrate. There were well over 1,000 of us and the announcer had a rhythm established in the announcement of graduates. It reminded me of an assembly line as we walked across the stage, received our diplomas and went back to our seats. I was in beat with the announcer’s rhythm until he announced the graduate ahead of me. She had a name something like Robbie Tabatabi and the announcer stumbled, forcing me to stop in full stride.

Even though I am done graduating, I wonder if I ever will be done with graduations. I’ve seen three of my children graduate with a fourth waiting in the wings. And when I don’t have kids graduating, I am photographing them.

That means I’ve heard a lot of graduation speeches, none of which I remember. But a couple of lines in those speeches have stuck.

Joe Kramer, a good friend and current superintendent at Pocahontas Area/Pomeroy-Palmer, no doubt told the seniors last Sunday to work to live, not to live to work. Kramer, however, has a difficult time taking his own advice.

The logic is sound, though. While we all need employment if we expect to eat, have a roof over our head and adequate transportation, jobs should never consume us.

So many times I’ve seen people who don’t seem to have a life outside of work. Work has kept them from having strong relationships with their families, friendships with others and developing interests away from the desk.

Those are the people who work well into retirement years. Many of them never retire. They don’t need to work for financial reasons but the lack of a sufficient substitute keeps them plugging away until health issues finally lock the office door. By then, quality of life is so poor that they can’t enjoy retirement.

Another superintendent, arguably my favorite superintendent in years of covering school districts, had the best graduation line.

The late Dennis D. Pierce was superintendent at Pocahontas Area for 28 years — an eternity for an administrator to be at one location. Pierce was so respected in the communities he served that most people referred to him as Mr. Pierce.

Over the years, he gave me quite a few “Pierceisms.” One of his favorites was, “Some days the bear gets you and some days you get the bear.” Yes, I know that is simplistic philosophy, but it gets the point across. Another was, “This superintendent is just a working fool.”

The best Pierceism, however, was his closing line for 28 years of graduation addresses. He also ended his speech by advising graduates: “Don’t forget where you came from.”

It is a line still used by the Kramer at PAC/P-P and the superintendents between Pierce and Kramer.

Although I had a good idea of what he meant by the line, I asked him for his definition. He told me he said if for two reasons. Firstly, he wanted graduates to remember the values and lessons they learned while growing up, and secondly, he wanted the students to think before they embarrassed their family, school and community.

Great advice, advice that should be heeded by all graduates.