This I Believe

Fern - Scottsdale, Arizona
Entered on June 8, 2007
Age Group: 65+
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Kindergarten Commencement Carries Hope for the Future

I had no idea when I showed up for my youngest grandson’s kindergarten commencement that it would be such an insightful and memorable experience.

As the formal recorded music announced their entrance, the proud teachers led their classes into the cafeteria. The children looked like deer caught in the headlights as they made their first “red carpet” entry as the day’s celebrities. When they recognized loved ones in the sea of faces, the glazed look was replaced with a smile, and either a shy or exuberant wave.

I felt a familiar surge of joy and relief when I saw my grandson’s face light up as we made eye contact. In the emotion of this milestone moment, I wasn’t sure whether it was the adults or the children who were most in need of reassurance.

Naturally the performers were brilliant and wonderful. There was a recital by class members of the Six Pillars of Character they were learning to embrace—Caring, citizenship, fairness, respect, responsibility and trustworthiness. They had learned their ABC’s and there was an energetic rendition of the alphabet song with arm movements that threatened to unseat the hand-made mortar- boards that were balanced on their heads.

The final song was about a rainbow of children, and there before me sat a veritable United Nations of cultures and races. The words were beautiful and moving. At the conclusion of the song, the children in each row put their arms around each other. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place. The energy in the room shifted immediately.

As we began filing back to the rear of the cafeteria for juice and cookies, we were no longer disconnected units but part of a loving and caring extended family.

As I looked around the room, I was moved to tears by the American Dream being played out before me. The principal had urged the audience several times to promise that they would continue to support these children in this same manner until they graduate from college.

It was heartening to see how the entire staff had a shared interest in the hopes and dreams that each family held for their young ones and how, despite some obvious language barriers, the parents and grandparents knew it also.

Since I hadn’t been to a kindergarten ceremony in a number of years, this early and obvious emphasis on staying in school and developing tolerance and acceptance of others was wonderful to see. I believe this is the key to growing adults with the educational tools to become good citizens, and who will appreciate, celebrate and honor the similarities in people, instead of focusing on differences.

I also believe that these children, and millions of others like them across our wonderful country, are not only our joint legacy to the world, they are our hope for the future. #