Graduation is surrounded by many traditions. It is a human way of expressing the significance of the event. Graduates are most often dressed in a cap and gown (and there may be hoods and stoles involved too). This academic dress dates from the medieval universities of Europe when robes were the daily dress of those in the academy and not a special occasion attire.
Many of us will hear the strains of “Pomp and Circumstances” as graduates march in and out of the ceremony. This tradition is not nearly as old as caps and gowns. It dates back to 1905. Yale University bestowed an honorary doctorate on the composer, Sir Edward Elgar. In the ceremony, the New Haven Orchestra played a small part of his 1901 “March No. 1 in D Major.” The music caught on for graduations, and the rest is history.
Many will hear a commencement address. Such speeches celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates and often give advice for the next phase of life. Graduation is a transition. Graduation represents the closing of one phase of a person’s life and the beginning of a new phase. It is a time full of promise, even though transitions are not always easy. Graduates are often thinking and planning what’s next.
What message do I have for parents and graduates? Raising children is a gradual process of letting go. We train. We instruct. We discipline. But the goal is always for these lessons to be internalized, so that our children reflect Christian character as they make their way in the world. It is rewarding but never easy.
Youth is a time to follow dreams. As you get older responsibilities may increase and certain doors of opportunity may close or at least become harder to go through. Test your dreams by the will of God (see Ecclesiastes 11:9), but recognize that this is a unique time in your life to work towards what you will become.
Whatever else you pursue in life, my prayer is that you will seek first the kingdom of God. (See Matthew 6:33.) For those who are leaving home for the first time, there may be challenges to your faith. I want you to know that there are good answers to the skeptical questions people ask. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you seek God, you will find answers and your faith will be strengthened.
We are looking forward to our son’s graduation. We are proud of his accomplishments and look forward to celebrating this important event in his life. Congratulations to all of our graduates and their parents! It is an exciting and important time for you.