Friday, May 22, 2015
An Audience Of One
I just returned from graduation. It's a big deal at Westbury Christian School as it is in most places but we pull it off with a flair I have seen nowhere else. Our valedictorian and salutatorian addresses were given by Rebecca Godard and Clayton mith, respectively. These two both gave sterling efforts. I've spoken at graduation before but it sure wasn't as a student! Below, I tell the story of my favorite valedictorian address ever. You'll see why when you read it. This ran on May 27, 2007.
Two days ago, we had our Westbury Christian School graduation. As usual, it was unusual. Our commencement exercises are formal and informal, funny and emotional, and definitely family oriented. The crowd overflowed our new bleachers plus the six hundred folding chairs which had been set out. We pulled about every spare chair we could find to seat the audience. A congressman spoke, mothers were given roses, and cheers erupted as seniors took their diplomas and Bibles, transformed into alumni. As tradition dictates, the salutatorian and valedictorian delivered addresses. I was blessed to teach both. Nancy Fitzpatrick, who finished second in her class academically, spoke of memories and the teachers who blessed her life. Nancy was flawless in her eloquence. The valedictory remarks came from Khai Le, a young man from Vietnam. Khai, intellectually gifted and a joy to be around, concluded his speech with a quotation from an interesting source, Dr. Seuss. When he finished, Khai informed the crowd that his grandfather had traveled all the way from Vietnam to be in Houston on this special night. In honor of his grandpa, Khai did something I have never seen before: he repeated his valedictory address, this time in Vietnamese so his grandfather could understand. I thought he got a little bit choked up at the end of it. If he didn't, I did for him. It was the best graduation talk I have ever heard...and I didn't comprehend one syllable. There were others in our gymnasium who speak Vietnamese but I would guess they all speak English as well. Besides, they listened with their ears as did the rest of us. Khai's grandfather, I'm sure, interpreted his address just a little differently. I bet it was translated by his heart.
Applicable quote of the day:
"At commencement, you wear your square-shaped mortarboards. My hope is that from time to time you will let your minds be bold, and wear sombreros."
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Posted by Steve Hawley at 9:16 PM