There was one point about halfway through though that caught my attention. Before giving out the diplomas to the general student body, the principal turned the ceremony over to a general in the armed services (and an alumnus of Bethel Park) to oversee the presentation of diplomas to those opting to enter the military service. Representatives from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force came forward and presenting the roughly one dozen student entering the military with their diplomas prior to the rest of the student population. There was, of course, copious applause after each name was read and a (prompted) standing ovation at the end of this portion of the program. Afterwards, the principal took over again and began moving the rest of the graduates to claim their diplomas.
I realize this may sound be a bit controversial...but I didn't care for this part of the ceremony.
While I support the military as much as any average civilian, I think there's a fine line that needs to be walked when honoring anyone simply for joining a group. It's one thing to honor men and women who have returned from active combat, or been injured in battle, or performed heroic deeds. People like that are truly American heroes and deserve all the praise they receive (and probably more). In fact, at my school's annual commencement ceremony, we honor the military veterans en masse at the very beginning of the ceremony for the their past actions. In today's case, however, we were celebrating the fact that students had simply chosen to enter the armed services. I hardly think that enlisting is a poor choice, but is it something that should be celebrated above all other students in the room? Does simply signing up automatically make you more courageous or worthy of respect than your peers. For some, that may be the case. They may be joining with every intention of entering the service, fighting in conflict, and honorably protecting the country. For others, they might be signing up because they have few other options. For others, they may join but be completely unqualified and ultimately drop out. As these graduates were all pulled out of the crowd and honored as being somehow "better" than their peers for simply entering military service, I found myself very conflicted.
Anytime we have broad sweeping honors for people simply because of choices they're going to make, I think we miss the point. It's one thing to celebrate a wedding, but shouldn't a twenty-five, thirty, or fifty year anniversary be even more special? It's great to cheer for players at the pep rally for choosing to play a sport, but shouldn't we save our real praise for when they win a championship? I'm sure they'll be many future heroes that arise from this morning's graduates...but rest assured, they'll come from all professions and fields. The future doctors, lawyers, social workers, teachers, and even entrepreneurs may end up being just as brave, honorable, noble, courageous, and sacrificial as their military peers. A high school graduation is called commencement for a reason; it's time to recognize the journey thus far, but acknowledge that no one has really done anything yet. The heroism (and the hard earned recognition) will come later.