1976 Grosse Pointe South Graduation Address
by Damian J Kiska

I was forced to leave a world today.

Someone handed me what they called a sheepskin: And that is supposed to make me different!

Though I haven't figured out how I am any different now than I was 24 hours ago - I think it has something to do with the fact that I have an education now.

I really don't know how much more "learned" I am now than I was 24 hours ago, but I've got a paper that says I am.

And I do know that without this document I was considered much less. But with this document I am now considered much more.

They tell me that things are really going to change now.

They tell me I am now in the adult world. But this new world I'm in looks the same as the world I knew 24 hours ago. But they tell me it's different.

Someone said that this is an end. They said that a very important part of my life is over, and that I will miss it.

Someone else said that this is a beginning. They said I'm on the threshold of something new and completely different, and that I should be looking forward to it.

Yet another said that I will be losing a lot of my friends. They have even suggested that I may never see some of you again. That makes me very sad.

Yet again, they say that I will be meeting new and interesting people all the time. And I should be happy!

I'm really confused!

Someone handed me a sheepskin, a single piece of paper; and suddenly everything has changed. I don't know whether to cry, or to celebrate (entire class of 1976 voted resoundingly at that moment which we should do!)

I never thought a single piece of paper could change my life in such a total way.

OK! I've got a diploma. I guess I've been working 12 years of my life to achieve it. So what does that make me? Learned? Smart? Respectable? A Man? A Chump?

Who knows?

But I sure do have a piece of paper that says I am educated. And that education is something that a lot of people have fought for me to get.

So what does this diploma mean? What does it really mean? I guess I can read. I can write. I can add. And I've learned to sweat.

So what does that make me? A reader? A writer? An Adder? A Sweater?

Not knowing, and fearing to prevaricate, I hesitate to reply.

You see? I can even say "I don't know" in a very formal manner.

But seriously, it seems to me that the more I learn, the more I realize the vastness of that which I don't know.

It seems to me that this education is a minimum; a basis for which I may start out in any manner I feel is best. Whether it be college, work, or whatever. This community has given me the basis for me to start on with a good education behind me.

A famous major league umpire, Jacco Conlin, was umpiring at first base one day. When confronted with a very close call he had to make - he did nothing. He just stood there. An irate coach came storming onto the field yelling, "C'mon Ump! What is it? Is he safe, or is he out?". To which Jacco Conlin replied, "It ain't nothing till I call it, and when I call it ... that's what it is."

So I submit to you, my fellow seniors, in this year of celebration, spirit of '76 and all that stuff... To look inside yourself. What does this diploma mean to you? What does it represent to you? Because to be sure, this diploma means nothing at all until you call it - until you decide what it means to you. And when you do... that's what it will be. So then - and only then - will have any of this have any real meaning at all. And frankly, that's what this is all about.