Friday, January 16, 2015

1969 Graduation

Source
Sitting in the folding chair with all the other graduates, the 100% polyester gowns were turning each of us into a massive heap of deoderant-scented perspiration.  We girls realized this immediately; we stripped off the 100% polyester-newly-purchased-or-handmade dresses, heaping them tossed about in the American History room.  We would receive the diplomas with less clothes.

Speaker One was Mary Jane, a brilliant young lady who went on to become a doctor.  I think the lack of participation in school clubs and activities may have not worked in her advantage.

Speaker Two was Rebecca, a very intelligent girl who was active in everything, being a school cheerleader and part of the more affluent families. 

Rebecca and I were on GPA par, but for some reason the principal, David Tyler had chosen me for the final speaker.  Maybe it was because I had “won” many medals in Speech and Debate.  I still have those medals today, wondering why I kept them.

The opening of my speech had a general opening about a commercial (taken from a movie, "The Graduate") with intro to the body of the speech: The Future.  It was filled with some glowing phrases: looking forward to the great future, the incredible inventions and technologies, challenges and potentional, etc.  Basically it was the fodder of every graduation speech.

But looking at those other students sweating in their chairs, I knew that the future meant something very different for each of us. Heck, my speech would have put me to sleep in my own sauna graduation gown.  

Instead my speech changed direction, completely changed. Addressing the parents, the people who had been through the Great Depression, WW11, and/or Korean War became part of my new, unpracticed speech..  Their futures during that time had been very different.

Vietnam War but a very different type of war…drugs becoming available in our own towns…a time period unlike their own…confusion unvoiced…patience please patience…seeing the challenges of the future with eighteen year old eyes…time to grow…talk with us not at us.  But, the last sentence or two were aimed at my peers.

The only words I can clearly remember were these:

Don't be afraid.  Whatever you chose to do, don't be afraid.

That is all.  My memory of the rest is cloudy.  It was a short speech and we dozed during the main speaker’s address.


What next?  The Moon Landing in July 1969: Far Horizons post on Friday, January 16.

**The names are fictional.

24 comments:

  1. Don't be afraid - good message. And bonus points for keeping it short. And naked under your gown! If the boys had only known...

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    1. Well, not completely naked. Kept the basics for decency's sake.

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  2. haha one way to keep the sweat away. Don't be afraid is a great closing indeed. Fear cuts so many off from doing what they want to do

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    1. Fear can freeze the mind and the body.

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  3. Replies
    1. Back then, I wasn't so sure. Now, I realize it was.

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  4. 'Don't be afraid. Whatever you chose to do, don't be afraid.'
    My wimpy self needed to hear that then, needs to hear it now.
    Brilliant ending. Brilliant beginning.

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    1. Even tho I spoke it, taking it to heart took some time.

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  5. I can't imagine the pressure of having to give a graduation speech to my high school class. I'd have died back then I was so shy. It's funny how you don't remember anything but your last line, and a very good one it was!

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    1. I had tossed the original speech, using only a line or so. I wasn't nervous, since I had a lot of practice in speaking. So it was a jumble, except those words.

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  6. When my sister and I embarked on our own business, so many years ago, she told me (years later) she did not worry because I got up every day like I knew what we were doing.

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    1. "..Like I knew what we were doing" is so true.

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  7. Public speaking doesn't come easy in my family. Luckily I'm not the type who would have been chosen.
    interesting that you changed the standard speech to something much, much better. Someone had to do it and get their attention.

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    1. Sometimes one has to make the leap of faith.

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  8. Interesting time, 1969. Looking forward to the moon landing!

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    1. 1969 was a different year. Far Horizons next.

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  9. Great ending that still rings true! Most of the things that we avoid doing in life are out of fear. You were a very wise teenager, and still are!

    Julie

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  10. Often I wonder about those other students sweating in their gowns, if and what they did in moving on.

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  11. "Don't be afraid" is as good advice now as it was then. I was so afraid of so many things when I was younger. Years and experiences put much of that behind me, but I think we always have new fears to concern us. These days it's more in the way of health fears where I can't take care of myself. But we must move on.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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    1. It is not so much the years, but it is the health and aches that we face these decades. We are not in control basically.

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Go ahead...it won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!