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A few words for my son the graduate

Dear Philip,

I am still thinking about all the surprising ways your graduation at Abravanel Hall last week moved me.First, I was touched by the commencement exercise itself, which was unlike any other commencement exercise I have attended.

The evening's program was not staid or solemn. No, indeed. It was a celebration. Lively (downright noisy, in fact!) and filled with all types of music from traditional chorale numbers to a version of Jim Morrison's "The End" done on electric guitar and keyboard (a piece, incidentally, which could have been played at my own high school graduation.)

My favorite number, however, was "Side by Side," sung with style and joy by a Polynesian group right after the student body president's official welcome.

I was also touched by the sight of so many spectacular-looking young people sitting together side by side in flowing red and black robes beneath a single roof. These students had music in their surnames such as Bloomquist and Bui, Gallegos and Gilmore, Lucero and Le, Mateos and Mdivanina, Abeyta and Afeaki, Quach and Quintana, Young and Ye, Chow and Chandler, Kamerath and Kelen.

I am not sentimental enough to believe that there are never any tensions among the many types of people who attend West High School, but that night in Abravanel Hall, the words printed on your announcement rang right and true.

Diverse in Spirit. Together in heart.

My grandmother, whom I think of every day, would have enjoyed attending your graduation. She spent her long life eagerly accepting and embracing those who were different from herself.

My grandmother, thank you very much, would relish the fact that her great-grandchildren attend a school like West High.

But here's the thing that moved me the most. When I stepped outside Abravanel Hall into the deep blue of twilight to find you, I was struck by the looks on the faces of your friends. Big guys. Tough guys. Guys who can run over the opposition on a playing field like freight trains any day. They had these looks of realization on their handsome faces, these looks of knowing.

Knowing that a certain time of life is over.

Knowing that you will not see certain people again, and even if you do, things will not be the same.

Knowing that other people will expect more from you now and that they have a right to.

Knowing that in a very real way, graduating from high school is saying goodbye to your childhood and that it is time to move on.

Seeing your friends made me think of the words of Paul: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

This sudden knowing surprised your friends, I think. They had tears in their eyes that night. And so did you.

Well, let me assure all of you that life gets better and better, in spite of all the many mistakes you will make. Leaving high school, with all its special pressures, ultimately frees you to become more and more yourself, and when you go to your reunions, you will surprise each other by who you have become.

Still, I hope you keep alive in your hearts the memories of the boys you were and that when you think of yourselves that night in your caps and gowns looking east toward the mountains and your separate futures, you will be moved.