Graduation blends beginnings and endings

On Sunday, June 8, and Monday, June 9, our four traditional high schools will hold their graduation exercises.

I always attend these ceremonies. I do so not only because of my role, but also because I thoroughly enjoy them.

I’m yearly impressed that our students and parents seem to find new ways to express their joy at this occasion.

Creativity and inventiveness abound in Federal Way!

Student speakers will have prepared diligently for their remarks to their classmates. Their speeches will no doubt be about hope, the future, friends, memories and the WASL. Students and the audience will listen attentively. The speeches always impress.

I’ve been attending high school graduations for most of the 40 years I have been an educator, and I have been witness to incredible change. At each succeeding year now I observe a vast, changing array of ethnicities and backgrounds — ethnicities and backgrounds one would not have seen 40 years ago. I observe from the stage a sea of smiling faces representing cultures and languages with which I am both familiar and unfamiliar. I see young men and women walk across the stage, and I know they are the first in their families to graduate from high school...and I am humbled.

I see young men and women who came to our country as immigrants, looking for a better life, and I am reminded of my own ancestors. I see graduates who came to us as refugees from war-torn parts of the world, and I am amazed at their courage and thirst for learning. I see some of our children, having endured unspeakable childhoods, confidently stride to receive their diploma, and I am ashamed of my own weaknesses.

I see the excellent students graduating at the top of their class, outstanding students in the areas of art and music and athletics. I marvel at the gifts bestowed upon them and their recognition of and use of these gifts to seize the day! Every year, I have the same hope for these students: “Use these gifts well.”

I see in the faces of the graduates the joys and sorrows of the past 12 or 13 years. I see the impressions left by outstanding teachers and mentors, impressions that will long endure when the ceremonies are long forgotten. I see in each student’s eyes the reflection of the morality and civility and citizenship and compassion you have worked so hard to bestow upon these many years. I see your pain and joy, in shared triumph and tragedy.

Each graduate is a beginning and an ending, a “moving forward,” a carrying of little pieces of our souls into whatever maelstrom they cast themselves.

We hope for them. We hope for us. And we pack up our materials in the sure knowledge we will begin again in September.

Tom Murphy is superintendent of Federal Way Public Schools. Contact: tmurphy@fwps.org or (253) 945-2010.

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