The Graduate

Valedictorian she ain’t! A High School Graduate she is.

Mercy me, it’s been a while since I’ve been at high school, but today was her high school graduation. We arrived early in hopes of finding front-row seating and an area in which we could all sit together, apparently, other families had the same idea. After shuffling through the crowded stadium filled with other proud families, we managed to find a section for all of us; I think our father’s handicap (look-out, big blind Samoan man coming through) ensured our front-row seats.

I ain’t much for crowded places but today, the aluminum bleachers were my problem, not even the extra fat could comfortably cushion my seat. Because we arrived early, we waited for a while before graduation ceremony commenced, which gave me plenty of time to complain to myself. I sat there thinking about the uncomfortable seats, the crowded rooms, and wondered how soon this ‘dog and pony’ show would end!

The sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” brought me out of my selfish fixation. Everyone stood up, cheered, shouted their Graduate’s name, essentially, it was loud and proud. Of course, I found something more to be annoyed about, that is, until, I saw her unmistakable contour.

And then I saw her face. “Mom, Dad, there she is!” Through the procession she walked with her fellow-grads, tall and proud she was, and then she spotted us: walking and jumping, smiling from ear-to-ear, and waving at us. When she saw our father, who remained seated, his face awash with tears of pride and joy, she tried hard to choke back her tears, but the waterworks were flowing–LOL.

As we all took our seats for commencement, my mind wandered off down memory lane. I thought about all the times I was annoyed, angry, and short-tempered with her because I wanted her to do well, to do better, to be empowered, to be self-sufficient. As I looked at her with her Valedictorian pride, I realized that all those moments when I lost my temper with her, well, it didn’t matter. I should be proud of her! She should be proud of herself, her achievements, her accomplishments.

My little sister monitors our father’s blood sugar levels, administers his insulin shots, she tutors and counsels our nephew, she helps our mom obsessively clean our house, she helps to chauffeur our father around town for church and household errands,… Eh! By the end of commencement, tears of pride and joy (and guilt over believing I may have been a bit too hard on her) flowed down my face.

We honored her as a Graduate. We celebrated her like a Valedictorian.

And I celebrate with you, your Graduates’ accomplishments from preschool, to primary school, to High School, to University. Congratulations! And remember to “wear sunscreen,” by Mary Schmich.

(By Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, for Class of 1997 – Baz Luhrmann)

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2009:


If I could offer you only one tip for the future, “sunscreen” would be it.
The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists,
whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice NOW!

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth.

Oh, never mind.

You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded.

But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future.
Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind,
The kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts.
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy.
Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind.
The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive.
Forget the insults.

If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters.
Throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives.
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees.
You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t.
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t.
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40.

Maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much,
or berate yourself either.

Your choices are half chance.
So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body.

Use it every way you can.
Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it.
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.


Even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines.
They will only make you feel ugly.

“Brother and sister together we’ll make it through,
Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know that you’re hurting but I’ve been waiting there for you
and I’ll be there just helping you out
whenever I can…”

Get to know your parents.

You never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings.

They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go,
but with a precious few you should hold on.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get,
the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in “New York City” once, but leave before it makes you hard.
Live in “Northern California” once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths:
Prices will rise.
Politicians will philander.

You, too, will get old.
And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young,
prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you.
Maybe you have a trust fund.
Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse.
But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy,
but be patient with those who supply it.

Advice is a form of nostalgia.

Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal,
wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

“Brother and sister together we’ll make it through,
Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know that you’re hurting but I’ve been waiting there for you
and I’ll be there just helping you out
whenever I can…”

Everybody’s Free, Everybody’s Free

To Feel Good!

0 thoughts on “The Graduate

  1. Here’s the video link in case anyone is interested.

    Congratulations to all our Graduates!

  2. Ahhh! Chaunnie! Congrats to your sis and all the graduates of 2009!

    Ooh great speech by…Mary? LOL Aw`righty!

  3. watta you mean i was trying to hold back my only because im at work ..haha dont wanna get busted doing something im not meant to.

    yes yes…well done to ur sis and to many others. such a great feeling..especially being the older sibling. trust me..i kno the feeling.

    love’d it john.

  4. As a Graduate myself I thank you for the touching story and that feeling that will be missed in me because my parents are not alive to see me walk again down that path. June 27, 2009, I will walk that path in receiving my Masters and considering my age(LOL) I am truly grateful and thankful to God who has made it all possible. Thanks sole, your article brought tears of joy in my heart…Thats the part of the ceremony that I do not look forward to..June 27, 2009…!

  5. Kolokea: Exactly, Congratulations to all of our Graduates! And, yes, that is a speech entitled “Wear Sunscreen” by Mary Schich, here’s the link to the video, When ‘ya get the chance have a listen.

    NiuZila: it sure is, and still is true today, huh.

    jayfoo: LOL! yes, you know you couldn’t choke back them tears. Congratulations, and keep going!

    Psalm: all counts, especially, the beginning, which we tend to forget…I mean, I tend to forget.

    Mz.LT: You bring tears to my heart. CONGRATULATIONS. I know that all of your 1Samoana sisters and brothers will be celebrating with you this Saturday. I will be thinking of you this Saturday.

    For all of us,…I am One that takes pride in all of our Samoans’ accomplishments because your successes are a reflection of our potential, and is a source of extended pride in this New World in which we (at the least, I do) struggle to balance with our cultural perspective.

    Malo lava le fa’aaloalo!

  6. Mz.LT – I had to come back to congratulate you! Malo lava tau! Malo finau 🙂

    I’m sure your parents are looking down at you proudly!

  7. Kolokea,

    Thanks Kolokea! It wasn’t easy but I give God all the glory and credit. I have a son, brothers, sisters, neices, and nephews who will be there and my family who will not be able to make it can see me on web-casts…

    Tai Lava ia outou uma ia alofa lava le Atua ia te outou o loo soifua mai pea outou matua – tausi outou matua ma le faamaoni tou te maua ai le tele o faamanuiaga mai le Atua!!!

    Gods blessing upon you and your families,

    Much love,
    Mz. LT

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