Looking ahead to life after fourth-grade

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Internet has a couple hundred sites of graduation speech templates.

The formula is essentially the same &8212; famous person quote, personal memory, grand scheme of things clich/, another quote, take your seat.

Attend a few Miss-Lou graduations and you&8217;ll be proud that our students are learning Internet navigation at its finest. I&8217;m pretty sure I heard the same Vince Lombardi quote at two local graduations.

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Don&8217;t get me wrong, I&8217;d never volunteer to stand up in front of a few hundred people and offer inspiring words without my personal friend and adviser, Google. In fact, I don&8217;t want to get up there at all. In high school I closely watched GPAs to make sure I fell high enough in the class to stroke my ego but low enough to not be a speech-giver.

I can&8217;t remember a word or even the general idea of the graduation speeches of 1999.

And I bet our 2006 Miss-Lou graduates have already forgotten most of what they heard.

Perhaps the Internet needs to rethink its formula.

Or maybe graduation speeches are just for show. Maybe there&8217;s nothing you can say to a group of 17- and 18-year-olds at the last minute to prepare them for the adult world.

At Trinity, Chaplain Brandt Dick was brutally honest in his address to the students. He essentially told the seniors the world didn&8217;t care about them. He said they&8217;d often think the world was plotting against them, but even that thought presumes that the world cares enough to spend time on you. Not true, he said.

This was a fair enough introduction into the world. He wasn&8217;t overly positive, but he was honest. He later reminded them that they were indeed here for a purpose, God&8217;s plan.

My graduation from fourth-grade (for the second time) last week has forced me back into the scary adult world.

As was pointed out to me at Thursday night&8217;s town hall meeting, I traded in the joys of a classroom for convoluted city politics &8212; not my cup of tea.

It&8217;s easy to connect with children. Adults are tougher.

I&8217;d rather sit in the back of a fourth-grade classroom any day than enter a room of small-talking adults who didn&8217;t take to heart the Lombardi quotes from their graduations.

Kindergarten through 12th-grade offers a chance for mistakes with little or no consequences. Kids deserve quick forgiveness, and they get it. Sometimes it&8217;s harder with us big folks, which means it&8217;s hard to be positive about negative political moves.

For the two years I&8217;ve worked in Natchez, knowing everything about education has been my job &8212; that and covering our criminals. (Don&8217;t try to draw any connections there.)

Covering education is my first love, and I still plan to stay involved in that world.

But the still-recent change in job title means I&8217;ve got to expand my horizons beyond children.

People keep asking me what I&8217;ll write my columns about now that Mrs. Tuccio&8217;s fourth-graders have moved on. The answer to that is I don&8217;t know. The world beyond the McLaurin walls is wide open for me, the 2006 graduates and the Morgantown-bound kids.

This summer I hope to make it to a few of the kid-based activities that go on in the area. Next fall I&8217;ve toyed with the idea of trying out a first-grade class occasionally (yes, a demotion). Interspersed with the kids, I&8217;ll tackle the adult stuff.

In the meantime, I look forward to becoming a part of the community outside the education world. Because, as Vince Lombardi says, &8220;People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.&8221;

Julie Finley

is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or