About that graduation speech

Hollywood, MD – The individuals who devote their careers to education have plenty of challenges not the least of which is trying to get the attention of their students. Calvert County’s current public schools superintendent Dr. Daniel Curry always tries to ensure his final lesson to the exiting students is memorable. This year’s commencement address at the four high school graduation ceremonies was one to remember—but evidently not in a good way. The attention it is receiving may be more than intended.

To start off the post mortem I must first say I was—for the first time in seven years—not in attendance at any of the Calvert commencements. Of course, something controversial was bound to happen. While the Show Place Arena is a beautiful building, its acoustics make it difficult to hear anything clearly. Apparently, attendees heard Curry just fine and didn’t like what they heard at all. The videos of the ceremonies contained better clarity, and people watching and hearing the replay are every bit as appalled, and mortified as those who were there in person.

For parents, grandparents, family and friends who are embarrassed that the superintendent had to bring up subjects like procreation when thousands of capped and gowned teens are about to storm the Mid-Atlantic beach for a week with little parental supervision, it is understandable why they would be aghast. It is appropriate to express your feelings on Facebook posts and letters to the editor. It is equally important to put your feelings in writing and send them to Dr. Curry personally. Do not hold anything back. Make it clear how irate you are. I would bet a small cup of coffee with each and every one who writes a letter to him that you will receive a written response.

Having attended so many graduation ceremonies—and having been a high school and college graduate myself—commencement exercises stir mixed feelings. They can be incredibly boring and yet inspiring. Truth be told, the boredom is usually supplied by adults. They give boilerplate speeches telling grads “your future is ahead of you” and offer advice on how to live a good life even though their lives are ongoing. In monotone voices, they read out the names of diploma recipients. The inspiration is always the product of the honorees and underclassmen—those who sing and play musical instruments, those who march and present the Colors and the speechmakers who bask in the spotlight briefly with oratorical élan. Commencement exercise rule number one for adults should be--"never try to upstage the kids."

Dr. Curry may have provided students—and adults, too—with a valuable lesson, albeit one he didn’t intend to deliver. Life isn’t only about success. Failure is part of it too. Sometimes the failure will be spectacular and on a big stage with a huge audience watching the whole debacle. But there’s nothing to be gained from not trying.

Here’s something else to consider. Curry was attempting to pitch an initiative for enhancing the learning skills and preparedness of small children. If it had been a straight, run-of-the-mill plug, most would have nodded and gone back to sleep. Instead, everybody who heard it might remember it. And, consider this—what if it works? What if the needle moves on early education readiness? We won’t know until we meet the next generation.

For now, we say well done to the Class of 2018. You will succeed, fail, work, play, serve, (hopefully) vote and yes, breed! Stay well and remember— “your future is ahead of you!”

Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of management.

Contact Marty Madden at

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