This week, my younger brother graduated from high school, so I made the trek back to my hometown to support him by sitting through his grueling marathon of a graduation.  I’m sure lots of relatives enjoy seeing their young academic in his or her moment of great triumph over primary education.  The women behind us definitely were; I don’t even remember my brother walking but I sure remember everything “Bart” did by their repeatedly ear-piercing cheers.  But in all honesty, graduations are a horrible idea – long and boring, with only a few minutes of the whole event appreciated by any one party.  I received a twelve-page program, read my brother’s name twice, and put it down for the rest of the two-hour ordeal with occasional glimpses at the schedule to see if we were any closer to the end.  I guarantee every parent did the same.

As my mind was left unfocused for about 80% of the time, I turned my thoughts to ways to improve morale and efficiency at these sorts of social functions.  A few ideas:

  • Sell alcohol.  I could have really enjoyed playing a drinking game with all the clichés thrown around during speeches.  “Reach for your dreams!” Drink. “It seems like just yesterday we started high school, and now here we are!” Drink. “Thanks to all the parents (drink), teachers (drink), adminstratorrs (drink), and frendsh of Bulllllard – ” (attempt to drink, miss your face, pass out on the floor and skip the rest of graduation) I might not have remembered to actually cheer when my brother received his diploma, but I’d have definitely been less bored.  A slightly more PG version could include a “Buzzword Bingo” play set in each program.
  • Shoot the singer of the Star Spangled Banner.  Seriously, is the United States the only country which encourages the slaughter of its own national anthem?  Almost nobody sings this song well.  Get a choir or play a recording or something, but don’t have amateur singers take six minutes to turn the song into a multi-modulated musical monster, unless they are singing it after I’ve already played several rounds of the above drinking game.
  • T-shirt cannon the diplomas.  There were over five hundred graduates at this event, and each of them had to file up in line to hear their name read, get their diploma, and shake some hands.  No parent cared about more than one or two students max.  It doesn’t take a high school graduate to see that this math results in a promenade that takes too long and is too uninteresting.  Fix that with a little action; set up a little diploma mortar and make those graduates work for their degrees.
  • Play something else.  Pomp and Circumstance is not bad music, but vamping just the well-known part of the first march (less than 2:30 of unique music) for the twenty minutes it takes the graduates to file into the arena is tacky and annoying, not to mention playing it again as they’re walking out.  There are plenty of processional tunes that could be easily called up for the occasion that would be much more exciting.  How about entering on the Main Titles and exiting on the Throne Room March? Or how about a Mars / Jupiter / Neptune combo?  As evidenced by the way we treat the Star Spangled Banner, our culture seems to have lost an appreciation for good music, so why not expose them to something they haven’t seen or heard during the two hours they’re stuck in your boring event?

These are just some of the tamer suggestions I came up with for fixing the shambles that is the high school and college graduation.  I’m sure you have come up with your own ideas, so feel free to share.  And the next time you’re at an event, don’t forget to pack a hip flask.  I know I sure won’t.