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Everything you need to know to plan a commencement ceremony Monday, June 11, 2007

Are you organizing a graduation ceremony? Don't know how? It's easy to do if you know how!

Here is the order of events:

i. Everybody mills around outside the event hall. Graduates are all done up in their Sunday best and take as many photos of each other as they can while simultaneously trying to avoid the photos their parents are trying to take.

ii. Grads collect their caps and gowns from a back room somewhere, try to get the zipper to work, and argue about which side of the cap the tassel is supposed to be on.

iii. Some low-level administrator tries to get the grads
attention, and asks them to line up in alphabetical order, quietly and quickly.

1. The school band/orchestra strikes up Pomp and Circumstance. They do the best they can without the entire clarinet section, who are all gr
aduating. Parents jostle for photographic positions as the grads start walking down the aisle furthest from their loved ones.

2. The grads march to their seats, one aisle too quickly, the other too slowly
. The band repeats P&C twelve more times.

3. The grads sit down.

4. The student body president, acting as emcee for the event, asks everyone to stand up for the national anthem, sung by a member of the graduating class.

5. The student body president gives the following monologue:

Good evening everybody, thank you for coming to the commencement ceremony for the [school] CLASS OF [YEAR]! Yeah, that's right, guys, it's GRADUATION! How cool is that?

Four years ago, we came to this school as freshmen who didn't know our heads from a, uh, hole in the ground. But we quickly bonded together as the class of [year]. Since then we've worked together, played together, laughed together, and even cried together. And the memories ... ahh, the memories. Remember when Westheimer fell asleep in Mr. Simmons' math class—twice? Or how about Jen-Jen going head-over-heels down the stairs at the homecoming dance? She gave us a bit more of a show than we expected! And who can forget Brooksie's leap into the stands after the [sport] team won state this year? Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about!

But before we go on, we should thank the people who helped get us here. Let's have a round of applause for our teachers and principals—and the janitors, and of course Ms. Fitzpatrick (to whom, I just have to say: yes, I promise I'll pay my library fines). Yeah, thanks guys. And perhaps more importantly, let's have a round of applause for our parents, who have put up with us for all these years and helped us become who we are today, the [coolest/most fun/awesomest] class in the history of this school! Thank you!

I'm going to keep this as short as possible, so you can all get on to whatever "extracurricular activities" you have planned for tonight. So without further ado, let me introduce the senior choir, who will sing [inspirational song-du-jour].
6. Choir sings an uplifting song.

7. Student body president thanks them and introduces the class valedictorian(s).

8. Valedictorian gives the following speech:
I could stand here and recite the same old cliches about the world being ours to conquer, the future being in our hands, seize the day, live what you believe, et cetera, but I won't. I could simply read from Dr. Seuss' "Oh the places you'll go," but I won't.

Instead, I want to tell you a story about someone who inspires me. This person came to our school four years ago, the same time as most of you. [Insert story of someone who had to overcome some kind of adversity to become the class valedictorian.]

So that's my message for you today: be your own inspiration. Follow your own path. Challenge yourself. Shape your own destiny. Be all that you can be. Take chances, respect yourself, and strive for something more. Listen to your doubters and prove them wrong. Exceed expectations. Take what you are given, and turn it into something more. And above all, believe in yourself. Thank you.
9. The head guidance councilor addresses the class as follows:
Thank you, [Ashley/Ashleigh] for that inspirational speech. This is my fourteenth commencement speech at this school, and I gave three others at the school before that. In preparing for tonight's address, I looked over the speeches I've given in the past—yes, I do still have a copy of all of them—but I looked them over and realized one thing: they're not very good! So rather than try to come up with something original to say, I thought I'd turn to the one man who very nicely summed up all of my thoughts, Dr. Seuss. So, if you'll allow me ...

[proceed to read "Oh the places you'll go" from start to finish.]
10. The Principal/President of the school presents awards to the class. To heighten the drama, big awards like "Gates Millennium Scholarship, $100,000", should be left until last. Start with the standard prizes like the "Maud Bailey Memorial Bursary for Athlete Scholars pursuing studies in Neo-Natal Education, $50" or the "Saul Kowalski Prize for Community Service in the Namibian-American Comminity, $17.50." To appropriately honor all of the recipients of these prestigious awards, the full title of the prize, a description of the winner's qualifications, and a detailed summary of their personal life history should be read.

11. Principal continues, inviting the graduates to move to the side aisle and introducing the school superintendent or chancellor who will present the diplomas to the grads.

12. After whispering their name to the announcer, the grads walk across the stage from left to right. The announcer manages to get Ilea Ashitoma Ululagua's name right, but inexplicably uses a French accent for Jason Phillip Williamson.

13. After 13+ years in the school system, a full
17% of the class still doesn't know which hand to shake with. An additional 9% attempt to hug the presenter instead, causing a delay in the proceedings as the two parties use their best non-verbal negotiation skills to come up with a compromise position.

14. At least three other school administrators that the grads have never seen before should be on stage to congratulate them.

15. Ten percent of the ladies in t
he class fall on the stairs after receiving their diplomas because they are, for the first time, wearing heels that would not be allowed through security at the airport. Jen-Jen does a spectacular double flip in the pike position in homage to her acrobatics at the homecoming dance.

16. Despite the stately nature of these affairs, the audience should always feel welcome to shout at the graduates as they cross the stage. "We love you Nicky!" and "Way to go Tracy!" are appropriate, as are "Bergman, YEAH!" and the ever popular "Woohoo!"

17. After the last diploma has been handed out, the principal or president heads back to the podium. He/she tells the grads they may now move their tassels to the other side of their cap. The grads look at each other in confusion, because they still don't know which side it's supposed to be on, and half of them moved it after they received their diploma anyway. The principal/president then announces, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the class of [year]!"

18. The grads stand and cheer, and throw their caps in the air, but not more than a foot above their heads, because they don't want to lose something in the arena that would be better lost at the bottom of a box as soon as they leave home.

19. The grads file out of the auditorium as quickly as they can to the tune of "Wipeout," the only other song that the band can play without a clarinet section. The irony is lost on Jen-Jen, who stumbles as she waves to her parents in the upper balcony.

20. As quickly as possible, the graduates strip off their gowns, caps, and any other trappings that might tie them to what is now their former school, and mill about with their friends and family. After the obligatory photos with every combination and permutation of parents, brothers, sisters, and grandparents, dogs, and cousins, they give their dorky hats to their parents, and split. Then they spend 45 minutes waiting to get out of the parking lot.

That, my friends, is everything you need to know to plan a commencement ceremony.


Anonymous said...

Your mother is in stitches (and I don't mean sutures). D

Unknown said...

Wow! I had no idea that you were at my commencement. And Matthew, that wasn't Jen-Jen but her twin sister Tif-Tif. You sir are a very funny guy!