Faces in the Crowd

This past weekend as I sat listening to yet another commencement speaker, I realized that I don’t remember anything those speakers said at my graduation ceremonies.

Well, that’s not completely true.

I remember John C. Stevens reminding us to “be all things to all people” when I finished my bachelor’s degree.

And I don’t even know if we had a speaker at my high school graduation.

But I remember the people who came just to watch me walk across the stage. 

My parents came every time.  My mom in panty hose and heels.  My dad in a suit and tie. 

Always when it was hot outside.

When I graduated from high school, my grandmother came and sat through all six hundred and something of us walking across the stage.  She sat through our orchestra playing “Pomp and Circumstance” and the choir singing “When You Walk Through A Storm.”

from left, my mom, Aunt Toni, and my dad dressed in his white robe, ready to escort me into ACU’s commencement in the spring of 1983

When I graduated from college, my aunt drove all the way from Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, by herself, leaving her family of boys to fend for themselves for the weekend. 

Just so she could watch my dad ‘hood’ me.

My Uncle Bud with me when I finished graduate school in 1985. Get a load of the white shoes….before Memorial Day. Appalling.

When I received a master’s degree, my uncle surprised me by driving all the way from Houston.

When I finished law school, even more people came, partly because Kenneth Starr was the commencement speaker, but I still like to believe they came because of me. 


I don’t remember anything Kenneth Starr said either.

As boring as graduation ceremonies are, they’re important to attend.  To acknowledge a rite of passage – the completion of a task.  Of following through to the end. 

Only to realize it’s just the beginning.

The ‘commencement’ of real learning.

Real life. 

You need all the ‘pomp and circumstance’ to  celebrate that milestone.  

And you need those faces in the crowd to cheer you on.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Tim Hayes says:

    Sally – It is interesting to me that the thing you can remember from all those commencement speeches, “be all things to all people,” is probably the one thing that simply cannot be done. I have been taking a multicultural counseling course, and I began to feel that the secular counseling community seems to be saying, “A competent counseling must be everything to everyone.” I was starting to feel overwhelmed, but what I have come to realize is that I can only be ME. The only thing I can offer others is myself (which is certainly NOT all things to all people) and the truth about the One who can and is all to us. Thankfully, He gives us many new beginnings – and we aren’t required to sit through boring commencement speeches 🙂

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