More Than “Graduating”

I loathe the end of the school year. I cannot stand goodbyes. However, I have to go to the commencements (not only because we, the band, play for the graduates) but because there is one moment that I cherish even more: friends and colleagues walking the stage to get their diplomas.

The graduates wait with baited breath for the conferral of degrees. They not only get worked up, but get filled with anxiety, and desperate to graduate.

Although, I and the rest of us, sit and listen to the over 1,000 graduates they announce. No matter what I do, I may disappoint some graduates because I am not supporting some of them when they graduate. Even some will take a deep breath when they hear their name pronounced wrong because it ruins the moment. Some will become so angry they will throw a chair through the arena because their name was not on the list (yes, this happened once). Even some will be furious with me that I was not supporting them and because of that, they think I hate them – or at the very least, do not like them.

  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing that I cannot support some graduates because I feel they did not earn their degree, even though they will say that they are graduates and that means they earn respect.
  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing I must be someone that supports those people that have worked hard to earn their degree(s) to graduate.
  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing that if people do not understand that “sliding by with laziness” does not get them anywhere in real life, they might never learn that lesson.

Although, what we all have to do is sit back and hope for the best for everyone, and especially for even those who we believe do not deserve to graduate.

So – what exactly is my point, you might ask?

Ladies and gentlemen: Graduating and earning degrees is not, has never been, and certainly will never be about securing and holding a title or opportunity. Sure, it is cool. Sure, it means you have a chance at something in life. Sure, it means you have been given rights and privileges. Sure, it means you can have an impact on people and our world around us.  However, you can do all those things WITHOUT a degree or graduating!

We are all students. We are always learners.

We are never done “finishing” anything. Having a degree and graduating means absolutely nothing because …. we will always be students.

  • Being a student means setting an example for others. You do not even need any type of title to do that.
  • Being a student means helping the person next to you, and teaching the person directly next to you. You do not need any type of title to do that.
  • Being a student means being responsible for knowing yourself and what you really are capable of. You do not need any type of title to do that.
  • Being a student means having an impact on other members, your institutions, additionally every single person that gets to cross paths with you. You do not need any type of title to do that.
  • Being a student is cool in and of itself — and do not let anyone ever tell you any differently! (and you do not need any type of title to do that).

Sometimes being a leader and a true contributing member of society is harder than usual, and graduation is one of those times where you just do not simply “do it” because you have graduated — You should have been doing it all along!

And now, I would like to give a quick shout out to someone special to both myself, and others that he has inspired during his time at Southern with us.

Dan Zumpano:

Thank you for teaching me what it really means to be active. It was nice to be able to learn from you during our time at the radio station together, and during the times that we aired all-night coverage of the Presidential election, as well as the primaries and caucuses for 2016. Your guidance as to the entire process and the support for me encourages me to do the same for others. You have sincere, incredible talent that the journalism field will be very lucky to have. I can not wait to see you on the television screen so I can tell my kids: “Hey, I am good friends with that guy!” Just please promise me that you will not work for CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC or PBS or any of the major propaganda network channels (HA!). I am glad that I have you as a lifelong friend. Thanks for everything you have done for me and for the great times that we had together.

So, I send my congratulations to all who have graduated college this weekend. You demonstrated to everyone that you put yourselves out there and took a chance, and you were recognized for it.

That is such a bigger accomplishment than simply getting your degree and graduating college! You are more than a graduation or degree. You are the future.

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