We have all attended commencement ceremonies which felt as if they were three days long.
This week, Lebanon High School is hosting its commencement event for the Class of 2020 and the celebration really is three days long. This isn’t because every speaker is going wildly past the allotted time, but because all of the graduates are being honored individually at their own appointed times.
The goal is to give graduates and their families the opportunity to mark this momentous occasion while also adhering to the social distancing requirements that are still in place. Would it be better if we could celebrate at the same place and at the same time? Of course, but since that is not currently possible, this is a worthy attempt at recognizing these students.
Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Northwest held its commencement ceremony online. Members of the administration gave short addresses and each graduate was recognized individually.
But the highlight of the event came before the official start of the ceremony. Students had the opportunity to submit informal videos thanking their family and friends for their support. These videos packed an emotional wallop as the graduates made clear the debt they owed to their inner circle. In some cases, it was clear how deeply they felt the loss of contact caused by the quarantine. It was a fascinating window into the personal cost of this forced separation.
East Linn Christian Academy chose to hold its commencement exercise in the parking lot of the Lebanon campus. Families watched from their cars as the graduates were recognized for their achievements.
Lebanon High is attempting to recreate the traditional moment when the graduate walks on stage, is greeted by school officials and receives the diploma. In this case, those on stage will be wearing masks and the only people in the audience will be that graduate’s family. Still, photographs will be taken, gifts will be given and memories will be made.
In addition to the changes in these commencement ceremonies, Lebanon also had to forego the 111 edition of the Strawberry Festival. Organizers had no real choice but to call off the event given the amount of uncertainty that existed at the time a decision had to be made.
Even in this case, however, the Strawberry Festival Association came up with a way to connect with the community. Twenty-five hundred pieces of shortcake were made and distributed on Saturday, June 6, at Cheadle Lake Park. Members of the Strawberry Festival court and numerous volunteers passed out shortcake despite the wind and rain. It couldn’t make up for the loss of the festival, but it was a reminder of what we were missing and also a pledge that the annual event would return.
These have been a difficult few months for the country and this community. We have faced a pandemic which has caused an unprecedented change in our daily lives. Seemingly every part of our lives has been upended and we have been forced to live without many experiences we take for granted, from eating in restaurants to watching live sports. It would be easy to feel gloomy about our prospects.
But this isn’t the moment for pessimism. Each of these community celebrations honors American ingenuity and resourcefulness. Unable to hold their traditional events, people worked together to create alternatives. They found a way because that is what we do.