Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Into the Future

I can see it now - the darkened auditorium, smelling of old brick and polished wood, brim-full of people speaking in hushed tones. Gussied up in our caps and gowns, we formed a long line down the hallway - alphabetically, of course - and waited for the cue.

When the orchestra began, we quietly (and as dignified as we could manage) walked down the center aisle, taking our assigned seats as we'd rehearsed. The long-awaited time had finally arrived.
For anyone who has ever been in, or attended, a graduation ceremony, the scene is familiar. Times have changed since I graduated from High School fifty(!) years ago, but some traditions remain the same.

Graduation cap and gown roots go back to England. When universities first began forming in the 12th and 13th centuries, most medieval scholars had made certain vows and had taken at least minor orders with the church, so clerical robes were their main form of dress. Through the years, these continued to be associated with academic achievement.

The familiar "mortar board" cap first became popular at Oxford University in the 16th century. Many feel this hat was square to represent the mortar board of a master workman.

Others think it represented the shape of a book to give a scholarly appearance to those who wore it. Whatever the reason, it has remained popular and acceptable through the years.

Sir Edward Elgar composed Pomp and Circumstance (March #1) in 1901; it was used for the coronation of King Edward VII. Not originally intended for graduations, it first became associated with those in 1905, when Elgar received an honorary doctorate from Yale University. It was played as a recessional, however, rather than as a processional at the ceremony. After Yale, Princeton used it, then the University of Chicago, Columbia, and other schools.

This particular march is popular because of Elgar's ability to compose melodies that convey a complex set of emotions. The tune manages to sound triumphant, but with an underlying quality of nostalgia, making it perfectly suited to a commencement that marks the beginning of one stage of life, but the end of another.

Learning certainly continues throughout a lifetime, but completing one segment of an education is no small thing. It deserves a fitting ceremony and celebration, for much time, effort, and money have gone into it. Whether achieved formally through a public or private school, earned by honest endeavor by working at home, or learned on one's own through the "school of hard knocks", a good, solid education can never be taken away No matter how hard you've worked, or the set-backs you've suffered along the way, each milestone reached is only a jumping-off place for the next step each of us must take.

The time has come...the music has begun. March proudly into your future.

My son (or daughter), if you accept my words
      and store up my commands within you..

Then you will understand what is right and just
      and fair - every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
      and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you,
      and understanding will guard you.
                  Proverbs 2: 1, 9-11

*For Ashley & Geoff *

Photos of mementos in an old scrapbook.


  1. I'm a little younger. Graduated in 1968, but there were a lot of similarities. Graduations seem to remain pretty traditional, I think. Nice mementos! :)

  2. I'm a bit of a sap, I fear - kept scrapbooks throughout my youth, but they're fun to reminisce over.Traditions are very strong things - why else would the young people of today don such ancient "outfits", were it not for tradition? AND be proud to wear them, besides! Thanks for dropping in, Rita.