There must be some reason that ‘Monopoly’ is the most enduring board game in American culture, and last Friday night at San Marino High School’s 2017 graduation ceremony, seniors Jill Lin and Trevor Davis took their best shot at defining its longevity.
“Monopoly is a cold, unforgiving game, that pits friends against each other, demands complete focus, and relies on a healthy amount of luck,” said Davis, as the audience roared in laughter.
“In a way, it’s a lot like high school,” countered Lin, who had to pause for a second wave of giggles. “But goofiness aside, we know tonight’s Monopoly game will be just like our high school career, not like the description we said earlier, but rather filled with amazing and unforgettable memories.”
Certainly a fair amount of truth can be found in both estimations, but last Friday was all about joyous celebration and the first steps of nostalgia, which played out on a beautiful, breezy spring evening.
Lin provided a snapshot of the passage of time when she spoke of her compatriots’ “thirteen years of trudging to school everyday, watching the evolution from backpacks, to roller backpacks, and back to backpacks again.”
Davis got a guffaw from the packed stadium when he referred to his fellow classmates, “some of whom will become lifelong friends, and others who will start deleting each other on Facebook later tonight.”
Davis and Lin addressed the controversial conceit of social media to, surprisingly, defend their peers.
“As the generation of the selfie, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, and notorious internet fixations like ‘What color is the dress,’ we have been told by critics that we are a lazier, more distracted people than those who have come before us,” said Lin. “But let’s not SNAP back at them. Our upbringing in the electronic age, far from hindering our development, will instead serve as an invaluable framework to our future.”
The two then paid homage to educators who had announced their retirements earlier in the year; Principal Mary Johnson and teacher Kevin Hall.
They also paused to remember Brendan Leon, a classmate who lost his life last year in an automobile accident.
“Brendan Leon was surrounded by a loving group of friends and family, who miss him dearly to this day,” said Davis. “His outgoing nature, talent on the football field, and winning smile will remain in with us long after we say our farewells to San Marino High.”
School Board President Joseph Chang encouraged graduates to understand civic responsibility, embrace the need for critical thinking and value the act of giving back to one’s community.
He ended with a quote from Mary Tyler Moore.
“Take chances, make mistakes,” said Chang. “That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave. And that is how you will become successful.”
Superintendent Dr. Alex Cherniss reprised a story about the salmon, and how after a journey that can only be called miraculous, suddenly receives an impulse to return home.
“And for you, graduates of class of 2017, we encourage you to go out and conquer, but someday come back to San Marino and give back to the community that has given you so much.”
Johnson might just have saver her best for last, providing a thoughtful but challenging message to her final graduating class.
“After four years in San Marino High School, I hope you have learned that you are defined by more than your GPA,” she said. “The obsession with the high school GPA or SAT scores dies so quickly after these four years. At your ten-year reunion, no one will even bring it up. You will, however, talk about Yosemite. You will remember Grad Night. Sometimes it takes the distance of years to develop appreciation for times in our past, and my hope is that you will be able to look back with a smile and treasure memories of the extraordinary lives you have lead as members of the San Marino High School community. I know that I will.”
Her final public words spoken in San Marino were also the most appropriate, as she encouraged everyone in attendance to remember Brendan Leon.
The ensuing ovation was emotional and passion-filled, as all eyes focused first on the graduating class as they tossed their caps skyward, then, at the darkening heavens above, and the memory of one who had already received his diploma.