Letter From New York July 4, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

Sometime during the Graduation Ceremony for the Hudson High School Class of 2010, I thought that everyone should attend a high school graduation once in awhile. The entire ceremony was an uplifting, enlightening moment in time, inspiring and hopeful, reminding me of some of the many good things that are happening in the world.

I was there was because I had been invited by Christopher Wollcott, a graduate of the 2010 class of Hudson High School. I have known Christopher since he was about ten years old. I first met him on a Saturday morning at my favorite bistro, the Red Dot. I was having brunch on a rainy day and Alana, the owner, had found he and his sister out wandering in the rain. She brought them in. They sat at a table and dried out. I don’t know whether that was the first time he was at the Dot but he has been pretty much a fixture around there ever since. He graduated from odd jobs to bus boy to waiter all the while guided by Alana, who took him under her personal wing. I love Alana, not the least for what she has done for Christopher.

He was a kid who might have not made it through high school. He could have been one of the ones who dropped out. Certainly, many of his friends didn’t make it all the way through. But Christopher did.

He eventually came with me on Saturday afternoons, helping me with errands, stacking wood, sorting things for me from business – a little of this, a lot of that and always cheerful company. As he grew, he developed into a responsible young man. He is special and has won the support of many a folk. Dini and Wendle, who own one of the town’s B&B’s, have had him work for them. Steve and Judi have helped him get the orthodontic work he needed. He is a loved person. And he loves back.

So it was with a great deal of emotion that I walked into the auditorium of Hudson High School. We stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and I found my heartstrings pulled. When the National Anthem was sung, tears came to my eyes. There were speeches by the Principal and the local State Assemblyman. The Principal called the Class of 2010 a special class, one of loving individuals. They seemed to be all of that. They made national news when they elected two gay boys the King and Queen of the Prom. There were no outraged protests from anyone, either at school or in the town. The Class was giving a nod to two of their own, with perhaps a wry wink.

The Valedictorian was a young man from Bangladesh who had arrived in Hudson at the beginning of his freshman year, unable to speak more than a few words of English. Hard work, very hard work, had propelled him to the top of his class. The Salutatorian was a young lady who thanked her family, all of them, from mother and father to step-mother and step-father, brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters.

The crowd stood and applauded as a high school diploma was granted to a Viet Nam vet who had never gotten one. There was a moment of silence when the parents of a student who had died during the year came to the stage to accept an honorarium from the Class of 2010.

The diplomas were given out. Several high-spirited young men moon danced their way back to their seats after picking up their diplomas. Cheers were given when the last diploma was handed out and the crowd, as one, stood to give a standing ovation to the Class of 2010, about to go on to the next phase of their lives.

It was altogether a fabulously moving experience, one that will resonate with me for a long time to come because it brought together so many good things: patriotism, love, generosity, caring, mourning, celebrating, exuberance all married together in one afternoon in America.

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