Mesa Musings: And now for the next step

May 23, 2011|By Jim Carnett

It's the hap-happiest time of the year!

No, the frost is not yet on the pumpkin, nor are jingling bells in the offing.

Rather, it's that special season for slaps on the back, leis and kisses, and bad speeches. It's time for Mr. McGuire to advise young Benjamin, "I just want to say one word to you. Just one word … plastics."

It's graduation season. And I love it!

We see giddy grads proudly bedecked in funky gowns, wearing silly square hats featuring dangling tassels that wrap themselves around eyeglasses and stick to lip gloss.


Joyous commencement!

It's a time for recognizing accomplishments and completions and for moving forward to new challenges and distant horizons. It's a ceremonial rite of passage. A significant life transition.

I know something of graduations; I've attended a few. Like nearly 100! I'm a commencement junkie. I collect graduations like Lily Tomlin collects Bakelite jewelry.

I've attended my own graduations and those of my siblings, my kids and my grandkids.

And I've attended ceremonies for lots and lots of other people I've never met. I confess to the following: I get a lump in my throat each time I watch graduates walk across a platform to receive their handshakes and diploma.

I attended 36 commencements while serving as Orange Coast College's director of community relations. I was a member of the Commencement Committee for three decades and I wrote the commencement script every year for the last 20.

I understand the drill.

For more than 20 years, I was a member of the subcommittee responsible for selecting OCC's student speaker. I've heard a hundred audition speeches if I've heard one! And, yes, I used to tear up and choke back unmanly sobs each time I listened to one.

I desperately wanted each of the deeply earnest candidates to succeed.

They'd exerted great effort in putting down on paper their thoughts and feelings about graduation, and I owed them my honest attention and benevolence. Some students had knees knocking, hands shaking and voices quavering so palpably that I seriously questioned their ability to survive the audition.

But bless their little hearts, they did.

One young woman delivered a 25-second homily, then sat down.

"Uh, dear, weren't you able to flesh out a few more details?"

I graduated from Everett A. Rea Junior High School in Costa Mesa in 1958; Costa Mesa High School in 1962; and OCC in 1969. I also graduated from Cal State Fullerton (1971) and Pepperdine University (1975).

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