I’m sitting in skybox 306 in the BOK center and the Broken Arrow band is playing Pomp and Circumstance as 1,137 Broken Arrow Seniors stream down eight aisles like ants who have discovered a donut on the sidewalk.
This isn’t anything like my graduation except it was also in a gymnasium, where I sat by Howard who leaned over and said, “Tata bud, I’ve gotta pee like a race horse,” while Lt. Governor George Nigh talked about Pink Floyd as if he knew a thing or two about popular music and social upheaval.
No, this graduation is different. There are more goosebumps and technology, a huge video screen, nosebleed seats and more ushers here than graduates at most high school commencements, along with an audience of 10,000.
I ask our sky box usher about the carafe on the counter behind us. “Is the coffee fresh?” She replies, “It’s cold.” I press her. “What day?” “Don’t know.” “Well, I’m having a cup anyway. My nephew Jacob is speaking because he is whatever they call 1 of 1,137 these days…Valedictorian or something like that.” She smiles and says that’s wonderful and I sit down next to Karen and Ray.
Ray was stationed in Hawaii with the Marine Corp before he got married. He says that he kept Wakiki beach safe the whole time he was there.
He is 83 now and he stands up when the band plays the Marine Hymn during the “Salute to the Armed Forces,” and Karen gets misty like she doesn’t even do watching Hallmark movies.
Ray sits down and I tell him his grandson Jacob is walking to the stage and Ray leans over and says folks back home in Texas don’t believe him when he tells them Jacob got his academic chops from his pops who went to college on the G.I. bill.
Eric and Johna ring the old Broken Arrow High School bell for the 109th time…tradition.
The choir sings, “I’ll Always Remember You,” and I think of an email I read this morning soliciting names for my 40th high school reunion and I can only remember half of the names from the list of 1977 classmates. I’m sure at one time I knew them all. A song from Seals and Crofts dances in my brain:
Dreams, so they say, are for the fools, And they let ’em drift away, Peace, like the silent dove, Should be flyin’, but it’s only just begun…We may never pass this way again.
Noah Osborne, class president has a velvet singing voice and he speaks, eloquently, but he finishes simply singing…Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound, and he stops before the line, I once was lost…and a choir of 10,000 sings…was blind but now I see.
Jacob approaches the lectern, and he steals this moment like his Biblical namesake whose name in Hebrew means supplanter, the one who takes the birthright. His words are hopeful, and my goosebumps are filled with pride as I watch Jacob who looks a lot like his Father on the big screen, and sounds like his Mother, full of passion and grace.
Jacob tells this to 10,000…
Be a hero or a villain.
There is no middle ground.
There are moments when you realize that we may never pass this way again, and that it’s okay, the world doesn’t depend on you, and our children are becoming the heroes and the villains, their dreams on the clouds of hope, silent doves taking flight.
God, make us wind underneath their wings and give us the good sense to get out of their way.