The families and friends in the stands got into the act as well when the microphones died in the middle of the Boys and Girls Quartet’s performance of the National Anthem, picking up where the singers left off and finishing a couple of notes ahead of them to boot.
The festivities began with the graduates marching onto the football field – the boys in black robes with gold sashes and the girls in gold robes with black sashes – waving as they steadily gained yardage from the end zone to midfield.
Behind and above them was the scoreboard, which was blank, but should have at least given the grads seven points for having achieved this significant touchdown at the end of the first quarter in the game of life. The yardage marker could have read: “miles to go before they sleep.”
As the grads filed in, the people in the stands of all ages, races, creeds and colors cheered, shouted, waved, clapped, pointed, held onto balloons, smiled, laughed, took pictures, shot video and held up signs reading “DU CUT,” “Congratulations, Jordan,” “Love You!” “Go (drawing of an apple) (drawing of a bomb),” “Go SAIA,” “SABELLA,” “Congrats Andy” and “Congratulations Bernie,” adding in a footnote that Bernie had grown up so fast.
Before the grads, families and friends could enjoy the just desserts of their diplomas, they had to digest the main course of we’re-going-to-miss-high-school-but-are-eager-for-what’s-next speeches from the valedictorians, salutatorians, class and school board presidentorians, principalorian and superintendentorian, some of whom fought bravely against the wind to keep their tassels from turning into propellers and flying their mortar boards to Oakley and beyond.
The chill might have added an extra twist to the tongue twister “street sweeper” – say that 10 times fast – in School Board President Walter Ruehlig’s stump graduation speech. It came out as “sweet streeper” a couple of times as he quoted Martin Luther King’s advice that even though they may end up as street sweepers they should be the best street sweepers they can be.
The grads then filed up to the stage, received their diplomas, had their pictures taken and filed back down – some of them throwing their arms in the air in relief and exultation while others looked more contemplative, as if plotting their game plan for the second quarter of life.