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Hope And Change Make For A Day To Remember

Some people had been staking out seats since dawn, jockeying for the closest possible seat. Others lined many of the more than 4,000 chairs with purses and coats, saving row upon row for others. There was standing room only as the 9:30 a.m. start time drew closer. It wasn’t a concert. It wasn’t a controversial rally. It was Beverly Hills High School’s 2009 graduation.
Vendors lined Moreno Drive on June 19, selling balloons, flowers, water bottles and bears to attendees as they strolled up to the great front lawn, capitalizing on the day’s festivities. “Very entrepreneurial,” said one graduate’s parent in passing.

On the front lawn, the Madrigals and Minnesingers were arranged, gearing up for a vocal work out.

“Time will pass – and it will pass quickly – but you will always remember this day,” said BHUSD School Board President Nooshin Meshkaty in her address to the crowd.

Giant speakers and a podium adorned the usually pristine front lawn. It definitely was a day that will be remembered.

The air was crackling with excitement. Faces full of pride look on as the more than 600 graduates took to the stage to the tune of the perennial Pomp and Circumstance. Almost immediately, you heard a low rumble, “2009! 2009!” There was no mistaking; these graduates are full of honor. Or rather hope and change, as this year’s theme so eloquently suggests.

As the students filed onto the stage in their blue and white robes – blue for the young men and white for the young women – it became obvious to all: this is the future.

After a brief introduction by Liora Simozar, fellow graduate Alex Dubin takes the stage. His speech was thoughtful and clear, using references to America’s great battles and hardships to communicate the obstacles this particular class will face in the coming years. Allusions to the Great Depression, the election of President Obama and 9/11 pepper his speech that ultimately challenges the class to be the “next great generation.” Because, as Dubin said so well, “We have the foundation to succeed. America needs us.”

With that call to greatness, Dubin exited the stage and Simozar returned, joyfully bounding up with a call, “Oh what!” It’s the call of the seniors: one that will always remind them of their pride in their school and their City.

Simozar’s speech took a more personal turn, one that appealed to the outside world asking and entreating those that meet these graduates not to judge based on the caché of the name—and do not be fooled, there is quite a caché—but rather she asked of her peers, “let us make a pact that we will enter this world with open minds and open hearts.”

That entreaty was followed by the Madrigals and Minnesingers rendition of Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked.  An appropriate choice of music as the lyrics proclaim, “Something has changed within me, something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game. Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep. It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap.”

With that, Principal J Guidetti took the stage, invoking another great leader of the past, John F. Kennedy.

As he listed events that marked change both banal (gas was just $1.23 when students were finishing their elementary education, movies were only $6 their freshman year) and historical (Hurricane Katrina marred 2005), Guidetti also reminded the students that the future is in their own hands and, “the road map that you have just constructed really does become your most valuable GPS.”

Perhaps his most heartfelt and honest statement, however, was his final: “Graduates, it is time for hope and change and now it is time for you to go.”

Caps flew in the air, screams and claps erupted. This was the class of 2009 and it is time for them to go into the world. It was time for them to begin a new chapter. It was time for them to go.

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