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Graduation address

06/26/07 12:00AM By Jay Craven
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(HOST) It's customary for graduation guest speakers to direct words of wisdom and reflection "to" the graduates. But when asked to address a group of graduates this year, commentator Jay Craven took his inspiration "from" them.

(CRAVEN) When I was asked to give a speech to this year's Colchester graduates, I was a little scared. I knew there'd be a thousand people there. And I thought I'd lose them if I simply lectured kids on how they should reach for the stars. So, I decided to tell a couple jokes, talk a bit about the importance of imagination, and ask the seniors to - quote - "imagine themselves" - by revealing something beyond what might be visible to others.

Several weeks before graduation, I asked teacher Wayland Cole to invite his seniors to complete the sentence, "I am the one."

I took their answers and combined them with responses Bess O'Brien and I have collected from our work with other Vermont teens. The results provide an individual and collective snapshot - a last anonymous look at this year's crop of graduates. Here's what they wrote:

I am the one who knows the truth.
I am the one who will do anything for anyone - friends and strangers alike.
I am the one who struggles at school because I struggle at home.
I am an invisible man because people choose not to see me.
I am the one who wishes to give people with no hope - some hope.
I am the one who has a broken heart.
I am the one who is picked on every day.
I am the one who no one understands.
I am the one who works as hard as I can to be perfect.
I am the one who has cut myself.

I am from rules that I have not followed.
I am from a lost face of my father I try to replace.
I am from playing in the dirt.
I am from death still trying to cope.

I am from a family that eroded like a mountain.
I am learning how to play with the cards I was dealt.
I am sad to happy, back to sad, feeling intertwined like vines.
I am holding the bottle of my own emotions.
I am from much love given by everyone like the beat of the sun.
I am from everything that used to exist.
I am from me and only me.
I am the one who is sick of school and wants to graduate.
I am the one with extinguished fears.
I am the one who never got to know you.
I am the one who can't wait to graduate but is scared to leave high school.

I'm reminded of a comment I heard this year on Martin Luther King Day - from singer and activist Harry Belafonte, who said - quote - "each generation must be responsible for itself." End quote.

One way we've tried to be responsible for ourselves is to care for our kids. Their comments show how we've succeeded and where we've fallen short-and how we'll all still need each other. Especially in today's complex world.

How we wish them well.

Filmmaker Jay Craven teaches at Marlboro College and directs Kingdom County Productions.

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