Some have mentioned to me "so what? who cares? shouldn't the kids be allowed to have fun?" While I see their point...I think the answer is a little deeper than that. At the heart of it, graduation, as an event, is special for two reasons: it's representative of the completion of these kids body of work thus far...and it's taken seriously. The first reason speaks for itself; obviously graduation is a big deal not because of the funny hats or ropes, but because its the end of the road. But I think the second reason is just as important. Graduation is only a big deal...if its treated like a big deal. Otherwise, it suddenly starts to look really silly.
Like many serious things in life, graduation is a bit ridiculous when you think about it logically. Everyone wearing rain-ponchos to receive empty envelopes, flip tassels, throw caps, and march around the field in a circle? It all seems to be a little weird if you think about it too much. But yet, if everyone involved takes it seriously...it becomes something greater for that reason. If graduation is a time where you leave the pranks and jokes at home, if you respect the decorum and solemn nature of the evening, if you use it as a time to look forward and backward in your life...all of the sudden it becomes something worthwhile. It is...essentially...what it isn't. It's not an assembly, an awards show, a pep rally, or a show case...it's a commencement ceremony. It becomes valuable because of the all the things it forbids.
Of course this isn't unique to graduation; most things in life only work because of what they are not. Hockey is challenging because you have to use a stick instead of just picking up the puck. Baseball demands you keep the ball in-bounds in only get three strikes. Movies require you to suspend your disbelief. And of course driving requires you to stay on the road. It's the negatives which create the ultimate positive. Things, therefore, only are...because of what they are not.
So as the class spends these final 24 hours preparing for Commencement, I hope they'll stop a moment and consider taking it seriously. That doesn't just mean "follow the rules, stay in line, don't act out", but actually give this major life event the respect it requires to work. Otherwise, it might just feel like walking in circles on the grass.