As I sat in the balcony of the auditorium where my son’s high school graduation ceremony took place, I marveled at the crowd of caring adults that had come to witness a watershed moment in their child’s life. I was pleased that tradition had a place in the evening program, beginning with “Pomp and Circumstance” being played as the seniors marched into the auditorium to take their seats, as well as the singing of the National Anthem. However, as the evening progressed, I became troubled by the lack of manners, civility and consideration exhibited by the adults in the crowd.
I have no objection to proud parents wanting to show support for their children and their achievements, but the situation has gotten out of control. My first concern was that there was no respect given to the speakers by many in attendance. I was taught throughout all of my years in school and now as a member of Toastmasters, that when someone speaks, you yield the floor. This means you do not keep talking and you allow the speaker to be heard. Throughout the speeches by the Principal, school board member, keynote speaker and others, many parents kept chatting away with no regard for others who wished to hear the speeches or to the speaker that had undoubtedly spent considerable effort preparing for this evening’s speech.The people sitting behind us insisted upon a running commentary, regardless of how it impacted anyone else sitting by them.
Remembering my graduation day many years ago, when each child’s name was called by the Principal or other dignitary, the proud parents might have politely applauded or whistled as their child walked across the stage. Now, the event has become a “scream-a-thon” by parents and families trying to outdo one another, with no regard for the child whose name would be called after their son or daughter because they could not be quiet. Many adults uttered ear-splitting screams and hollered for what seemed like eternity. I had to cover my ears more than once and it made the entire experience unpleasant. My husband, then 85 year old father, and I attended my daughter’s graduation three years ago, and we agreed after my son’s ceremony, that the screaming and rudeness have gotten worse in that short amount of time.
Writer, Patt Morrison once wrote, “Citizenship is really little more than the conscious practice of civic etiquette, the public manners that make the places we live workable when we practice them, and unbearable when we don’t.”
The lack of consideration, the lack of control and disrespect for others in this instance is sadly part of the erosion of self-control, consideration and civility when it comes to our public lives. The common good is difficult to achieve unless we are able to show consideration, empathy, and basic respect for the needs of others. I am saddened at what adults are modeling for young people in these cases. And I shudder to think what these ceremonies may be like three, ten or fifty years from now.