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Jeff Whitten: Graduation time!
editor's notes

On the back of the program for the Richmond Hill High School graduation was a note to spectators.

It read, a trifle solemnly: “ Graduation from high school is a milestone in the life of a student and his or her family. The dignity of the occasion can be best observed by refraining from whistling or applauding for any one student. This will allow families to hear the name of their graduate. Your congratulations can best be shown by applause for the total group after the last diploma has been awarded.”

You might as well try to stop water from running downstream or haters from hating. It ain’t gonna happen.

I’ve covered more high school graduations than I can count since I ran out of fingers and toes at 19, er, make that 20.

At every graduation there have been graduation ceremony party animals, presumed adults who whistle and whoop and holler and dance and scream and belly dance as if they just won $500 million on a Powerball ticket or were headed to Mardi Gras, took a wrong turn somewhere and figured what the heck let’s party anyway. The emotion is real, and unbottled and far more fun than a bunch of buttoned down golf clappers.

Among my all-time favorites was a woman at a Bryan County High School graduation at the Savannah Civic Center who started screaming, and I am paraphrasing but not by much: “OHMIGOD HE DID IT HE DID IT HE DID IT HE DID IT HE DID IT HE DID IT MY BABY FINALLY GRADUATED HE IS OUT OF THE HOUSE AND GETTING A JOB AT LAST THANK YOU JESUS THANK YOU JESUS THANK YOU JESUS!!!!!”

I didn’t hear anything resembling that wonderful woman at Saturday’s RHHS graduation in Brunswick, perhaps because it was held outside under a beautiful blue sky on top of beautiful green grass. Outside graduations beat inside graduations any day, by the way, and there’s no roof to keep all the hollering in. It floats up there to the clouds and scares the birds.

That said, I did hear plenty of applause and whistles and cheers and all that stuff you should save until it’s over and all the names have been read aloud, although if you manage that for 530-something names there seems a good chance all the pent up joy would blow the place off the map and set brush fires.

Besides, we’re not a society used to being told to hush up and be quiet, and being told to hush up and be quiet just makes those folks prone to be loud even louder. Freedom of speech means if we got something to say, or cheer about, then by golly we’re going to say it or cheer about it when we’re ready to, not later. That’s why we’re no. 1 in the world. We’ve got big mouths.

Now, no doubt some in the stands followed the words of wisdom on the back of the brochure, and my hat is off to them for trying to behave like they’re in public. And since I’m not much of a hollerer by nature, I’d probably be the worst of the behaving bunch, a grumpy old sunscreen-coated geezer fussing under my breath about the people from up north in front of me who won’t sit down.

Instead, I get to wander around and take pictures, which too often means I miss the really good shots, like the big healthy kid who did a cartwheel right in front of me – I had a zoom lens on and caught him coming back up, but the photo just looked weird.

I also missed getting a good photo of the even bigger healthier kid who did “the worm” or whatever it is they call it these days. Both kids looked like offensive or defensive lineman, only really agile and athletic.

Note to class of 2022: IF you decide to show out when you get your diploma next year and assuming I’m still around, give me a heads up so I can have my camera ready. I’m old and slow.

As for the class of 2021, myself and Mike Brown and Lizzy Donker managed to capture a few shots of the emotion and pageantry and all that important stuff these ceremonies tend to be about. I’m about to start filling up the paper with them.

That’s because even though I don’t particularly like teenagers, I do realize if they don’t get good jobs and start paying into social security soon I’ll be having to work until I’m 90 and I’d rather not have to do that.

In the meantime, congratulations to the graduating classes at Bryan County High School and Richmond Hill High School, and in the immortal words of that BCHS momma, “THANK YOU JESUS!!!!”

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