Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | June 22, 2016

Their Words Matter

On a recent windy Sunday afternoon I watched my nieces graduate from their small high school. It was a beautiful ceremony.

The speech by the senior class president was interesting, inspiring and erudite without the feeling that she’d worn out a thesaurus. Concisely and with passion she told us her greatest wish is to become a global citizen and to serve the world. She then read a free verse poem she and the other students had written. It was beautiful.

But then…

The speeches by the ‘adults’ were awful. I normally try to not be too negative a person, but as I sat there through three terrible speeches negativity was hard to keep back.

The first made me feel as though the speaker really thought the students blind idiots, the second made no sense other than to tell us what a great guy the speaker thinks he is and the third cited being resilient and learning to fail as an important lesson. While I agree with that often-cited idea, the speaker used as his examples an uneducated, antisemitic racist who made lots of money and someone well-known for shady business practices and taking credit where it wasn’t due who also made lots of money. “Fail, cheat and steal so you can make lots of money” felt like an odd message to come away with from a commencement.

As the students sat with quiet dignity, sang beautifully and spoke with great understanding, I was incredibly relieved that these are the people who are about to take over. The words spoken by the members of the previous generation made me feel as though it won’t be a moment too soon for us to clear the world stage. A better generation is coming.

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