There’s something about the graduation march “Pomp and Circumstance” that’s always bothered me.
Could be that it just sounds pompous. Edward Elgar’s composition was first played at a Yale University ceremony in 1905 and is now a requirement for nearly all commencements including ceremonies for preschoolers and promotions for middle school students.
Or, maybe it’s the circumstance – graduations celebrated as if they’re supremely significant, even though most anyone who’s sat through four years of high school or college gets a diploma.
Given my uncharacteristically curmudgeon attitude toward the music, I was surprised at my reaction to hearing it last week at my daughter’s high school graduation.
I started crying within the first five notes.
Red and black robes marched down a staircase at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium (nice final challenge having girls in heels navigate steep steps).
The Ballard High School class of 2013 settled in for a speech “Some Things Never Change” by one of their beloved faculty members, Dewey Moody, Ph.D. who teaches chemistry
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority: they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when others enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers,” Moody told the class.
“Graduates, lest you think I’m talking about you, that was a quote from Sophocles, 5th century BC.”
He told the students and hundreds of doting parents, family and friends to value talent and wisdom over certificates and degrees.
There were a couple of “don’ts” he passed on to the BHS class of 2013, which is a good reminder for the rest of us too.
Don’t believe the world owes you a living and don’t waste time.
“To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who just missed a train. To realize the value of one second, ask someone who just avoided an accident. To realize the value of one millisecond, ask the person who won a silver medal at the Olympics,” he said urging the students to savor the graduation, then put it behind them quickly and move on.
“Some things never change,” he says, “but your life just did.”
A few more tears. Maybe the circumstance was worth the pomp.
By LINDA THOMAS