Today is the big day y’all. To quote the great urban philosopher Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious BIG, “we did it Brooklyn: we did it!” We’re to the finish line. I am proud of you, and even if you weren’t in my government class, you are an Abe; you are family.
Before tonight’s ceremony, I want to reiterate the point that Mr. Erwin made this morning. In life there are celebrations (which are for you) and there are ceremonies (which are for the people who love you); this is the latter. Graduation is a ceremony in which we honor all the graduates. The needs of the ceremony are more important than the needs of the individuals in it. I know that sounds harsh—like I am raining on your big day—but it is reality.
It’s about the class: that’s why you all wear the same black robes; that’s why you all wear mortar boards (that’s the name for the weird square hat, in case you didn’t know) with tassels on the same side; that’s why we walk in lines and sit and rise together. It’s a ceremony, like a wedding or meeting the President—no one acts a fool when it’s time to meet the POTUS (well, some people do, but the Secret Service bum rushes them and they go to jail for it).
The ceremony tonight is going to be a blur. And when you’re my age (if our species survives the Trump Presidency) it will be both a blur and distant, but fond memory. I graduated in 1997, the year you were born. I can’t name the four people I walked with when I entered the Dome. I have no memory of who spoke or what they said. I know I walked, I know I wore a robe, I know my parents got some blurry pics of me. I remember thinking afterwards, that it was over in an instant.
What I remember is what came next—the celebration. I remember hugging family outside the Dome as you will today. I remember seeing my cousins from out of town, who I didn’t know were coming. I remember Deacon Morris from church giving me a card with a crisp $100 bill in it (that was like infinite $$$ back in the day). I remember having the greatest cookout in the history of all of the Hilltop. There were four grills going and folks I hadn’t seen in ten years were rolling in to dap me up (and get a plate).
I am excited for you all tonight. This has been the best and toughest of my ten year career, but we did it together. We overcame obstacles, rejected excuses and tonight you will cross the stage. Remember what I said on Tuesday, graduation isn’t the end of anything—it’s the beginning of everything. You all are just beginning a lifelong journey. Every one of you is a better student than I was in high school (no really, it’s true). This isn’t a period in the sentence of your lives, it is a comma, with much more to be written.
I offer you my customary closing for the last time. “I love you all, some more than others. Chairs in and good day.”