Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Honoring the Stars and Stripes at a High School Graduation; my biased report?


At the Woodburn High School football field and track, on a dark, Oregon, rainy June 8th, 2018, the
families and friends gathered in a joyous, celebratory mood not dampened by the weather and the uncertainty of their future. Most arrived early to be seated.  Among the crowd were children unable to just sit and wait for over an hour. A few ran on the track and two of them jumped into the puddles.  A couple of the helium balloons escaped the grasp of a few well intentioned spectators. Others walked here and there with bouquets of flowers they planned to give their graduate. New mothers pushed strollers or passed the baby from one member of the family to another. Grandparents tried to entertain their young members of their family.

Then the Commencement began.   As the procession led by faculty began, I listened to the recording of "Pomp and Ceremony".  My eyes teared up.  Through my blurring eyes I tried to locate my granddaughter in the long processional line of over 300 students led by faculty.  I was surrounded by the energy of  my family and the equally excited families and friends of the other high school seniors.
Diplomas were handed to students on a covered stage.
 Do you see anything missing in this picture?

When the procession found their seats everyone stood for the National Anthem also a recording.  Everyone in my field of vision stood reverently facing a flag to the far left end of the football and track field.

So how am I doing so far on reporting without bias?

Earlier while we were waiting a politically right leaning, very patriotic young man noticed something wrong with the flag. He was even more upset than I was by the poorly hung flag.  (another subjective judgment) The flag was only attached at the top. Luckily at the start the air was still and the flag hung at slack so the problem was not too noticeable during the Anthem.

 I conjecture with some bias that many highly patriotic citizens would say their own patriotism is not a bias. They would say that the flag and our nation was not given proper respect by this school at this event. As a Liberal, of course, I would agree on this incident.  And furthermore as a Liberal I missed not having a student Honor Guard of Boy Scouts conduct the ritual of displaying the flag visible at the podium. I would have liked a student soloist singing the Anthem. I believe bias is necessary and not bad. We all have a point of view.

 But I strongly disagree with those who would use this incident to disparage the school. Sorry about leaving my intention of not being biased. In this objective report my aim is not to compare Liberals and Conservative views. My point will not be political fuel for either side.

Again I deviate from strictly reporting by making conjectures because I have an inner need to defend public education.  I am tempted to make up possible excuses for Woodburn's programing without the usual attention to the flag ceremony like the ones I have witnessed at other commencements.

 Maybe Woodburn High School acted with the best action in their situation by using a recording and a flag outside of the stage area. ( I am voicing an unsubstantiated statement because of my assumption that within any large gathering of Latinos of every age, there must be Dreamers. But even if there are no children of the undocumented in this class of 2018,  history shows that governments separating children from parents of  illegals trying to enter our country can lead to anyone with Latino or minority features or Latino sounding names being imprisoned next. I imagine some Conservatives could be appalled that such an escalation could occur and I can imagine them yelling, "You are hateful". Yes, I can be hateful even when I believe I am above hateful behavior.

I conjecture low key flag honoring was conducted out of  respect for those in the crowd who no doubt already have close ties to those who have been arrested, separated from family, put in jail and wait deportation. Again I repeat my assumption is not a verified fact.
My point is not to make a case for my bias. Instead it is an example of how both sides will grasp  imagined explanations to support their bias.

The purpose of the ceremony is to celebrate the graduating seniors rejoicing on well earned recognition for their accomplishments and the right to speculate on a hopeful future.

"The seniors are to be praised for having the tools to go on to more education. Because in this age a high school education is not enough. The graduates are prepared to be successful  whether it be college, trade school, on the job training or the military." said the faculty and administrators in short introductions. Impressively the Woodburn School district has a curriculum based on the needs of their students. The high school is divided into five schools - Academy of International Studies; Wellness, Business and Sports School; Woodburn Academy of Art, Science and Technology; Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy as well as a place to give students who have made bad choices a second chance - Success High School. From each school the Salutatorians and the Valedictorians and Student of Distinction from the Success High School gave short speeches all adding up to the message that all people are equally worthy individuals.  The salutatorians and valedictorians had a message: They thanked family, the faculty, the community and our country for giving them an education.  All the speakers demonstrated that they learned to work together.

I paraphrase the theme of the talks: Everyone has an inner light equal to everyone else and the same ability to create change for a better world. So my fellow graduates go forth and shine your light on a darkness in the world. The future of the world is yours to shape.

The Student of Distinction from the School of Success talked of how he made bad choices and how thankful he is of the second chance he received. Fifty-seven students like him graduated after rough beginnings who would have dropped out if not for this program.

 I focused on how thrilled the Latino families were that their graduating child had an education. The ceremony was inclusive delivered both in English and Spanish. I estimate over 90% of the school is Latino with a small percentage of  Northern European ethnicities that included a few children of Russian immigrants. Also mixed ethnicities and races! ( Here I am aware that I organized this post to leave until last the extent to how few Northern Europeans there are in the class of 2018. I feared it would turn on sensitive buttons for some and my point would be lost.)

Writing without bias is more than difficult and humbling. Even when trying to write with a good heart, the way we are connected through the media and not often talking face to face we do not explain our experience well.  More study and thought of the dynamics of our human reactions to our current media and processing current events would help to break our current divided politics. My explanations  of my observations are time consuming to write and I am not sure people will read long complex thinking.

We all have more in common than our thinking and communication is allowing us to realize.

4 comments:

Tabor said...

We must respect the flag. We must honor the flag. We must not become exceptionally crazy over the flag. The issue is how we treat others under the flag. Our humanity or lack thereof is what taints the symbol of the flag. Carelessness is human and when give the opportunity to fix it, we usually do. I remember the photo going the media rounds of the HUGE flag rolled and thrown against the fence abandoned during one NFL football game. Wonder if that will be fixed this fall? We are all biased, but I give an A for all those who try to see both sides. It is hard for me.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

Thank you for your comments Tabor and Rain. Rain now that you are back next week I want to come visit and paint your creek. Would that be too soon?

Rain Trueax said...

Let's see how the weather is. I am not sure what our week-end looks like as Sean may want the house with the boys. Then we have to figure out where we take our trailer lol. I'd like to see you but let's see how it looks Monday :)

Rain Trueax said...

Congratulations to your granddaughter and to the family as it is still a time to honor accomplishment and in Oregon we have one of the highest dropout rates in the US. I didn't know they lived in Woodburn and thought it was Kaiser. Knowing it was Woodburn, which is a very ethnic community due to it being in the agricultural heart of Oregon, I totally understand the predominance and the Russians there. We looked at buying a berry farm before we got this one. I worried then about how that would work, mostly the very tight Russian community, for our kids. It wasn't prejudice in my case so much as concern my kids would be excluded. Bias can go both ways.

I suspect the flag was just carelessness. Ranch Boss had the responsibility for the flag when he was in grade school and we still have to fold ours properly when we put it away. I see a lot of disrespect for the flag due to ignorance-- like leaving it flying at night and in the rain.

Too bad about the boy scout honor guard not being there but they are no longer the boy scouts but now the scouts... PC dontchaknow ;)

You are more sentimental than I am and that's a nice thing. Take joy where you can find it these days :)