Congratulations, graduating high school seniors. A special note of recognition goes to the young men and women from Mar Vista High School who chose to demonstrate their disappointment with district administrators by momentarily protesting during their commencement exercises. I am happy for you. I hope all of you are prepared for the future.
Generally speaking most people don’t care for protests. Demonstrations can be bothersome and make people around you uncomfy. When Mar Vista students stood and turned their back to a speaker, they were greeted with cheers.
Moments later a voice echoed over the playing field telling seniors to be seated.
“The honor of the ceremony should not be tarnished,” it said.
Fair enough. Some parents and students probably wanted that day to be without distraction. And there may have been those in attendance who either don’t see anything wrong with what’s happening at the school district or don’t care. That, too, is OK.
However, the objective of a protest is to call attention to a particular issue. And that you did. You stood up for your beliefs and you should be commended.
Whether you go to university or join the military or take a crack at the workforce you will be confronted by moments that demand introspection. Where do I stand? Who am I?
Maybe you have already grappled with those questions in your young lives. But in the insulated world of high school — even at commencement exercises — the repercussions can be minimal. Now that you are big boys and girls, the consequences may be greater.
As one final assignment I hope you will do some research. Seek and view videos of last fall and winter’s Occupy protests. Pay special attention to the images of college students pepper sprayed by university police. Put aside the ideology and take note of the way massive groups of demonstrators were treated by police in New York or Oakland. Even here in San Diego. For extra credit watch the way protestors are treated in other parts of the world. Try to count how many beat downs or arrests you see. Figure out a way to calculate the legal and emotional costs associated with standing up for what you believe in. When you do, send me your findings with an answer to this question: Is it worth it?
Is standing up for your values worth the reactions — be they simple insults and scorn or arrest and abuse — you may encounter?
Will you stand up for your beliefs whatever they may be? Judging by your actions this week I’d say you will. I hope the adults in your life have prepared you accordingly. Good luck.
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