Last night, my eldest niece graduated from high school, and I had the privilege, and the joy of a numb ass, to sit through the two hour ceremony.
I'm extremely proud of her for surviving twelve years of boredom, catty drama, and in many instances educational mediocrity, for a chance to walk across a stage, have her name mispronounced, and receive-- not the delightful piece of parchment paper with her name on it, but a textured plastic cover her highly coveted piece of parchment paper will one day rest... after she stands in another line for X number of hours.
It's been...a while... since I made my own walk across a similar stage, wearing similar colors, and accepting my very own empty plastic diploma cover. Like with so many things, the passage of time has made a few things glaringly obvious, and 20/20 clear.
The state of California has taken the 'leave no child behind' idea and ran with it.
Now, I realize it's been a 'few' years since I graduated, and maybe I'm a little rusty on the definition of Valedictorian, so I took some time and looked it up.
Valedictorian: a student, usually the one ranking highest academically in a school graduating class, who delivers the valedictory at the commencement exercises.
While I was sitting on the metal bleachers, the same ones that were uncomfortable as a flat-assed teen and haven't gotten any more comfortable in the passing years, I was confused when the Principal of the school announced there was not one Valedictorian, but SIX.
Apparently, there were six students with the highest academic rating in the school. The thought running rampant through our group: There wasn't a single half a percentage point difference between any of them? Yeah, right.
Unfortunately, that was the only part of the definition they seem to have gotten wrong.
Each one of those six Valedictorians strode across the stage in their ill-fitting gowns, fighting to keep their caps on in the growing High Desert winds, and gave their speech.
It's hard to imagine as adults with responsibilities, families, jobs, advanced years, and jaded personalities, that we were ever that young and naive.
The first speech was impassioned with the growth and experiences of high school, promises of taking the world by storm, and the knowledge the Class of 2011 were the best and the brightest.
After the second one that lamented their heroes--Rugrats and SpongeBob SquarePants-- and other important experiences in high school-- lunchtime, dances, and rugby games-- I quit listening.
These were the highest ranked in academics?
No child left behind is right, though I'm not sure if this is what George W. Bush had in mind when it was proposed January 23, 2001.
Then again, maybe it was.
After the longest thirty minutes known to man, the last Valedictorian exited the stage, and the school choir did their thing--a performance of songs which seemed to have little to do with commencement.
Out of the two hours we sat on those benches, the wind blowing, and the sky darkening; it took thirty minutes for the actual graduation. Thirty minutes to call the names of the graduates, congratulate them, and hand them the only tangible evidence of their last twelve years.
I'm incredibly proud of my niece. She's an amazing girl with the ability to do whatever she wants to in life.
Congratulations, T-Dawg. Welcome to real life. There are no Valedictorians here...but there is still catty drama.
Maybe real life really isn't that different, but I really hope it is.