Turning of the Tassel

     The month of May ushers us into the season of graduation commencement exercises which normally include a “turning of the tassel” ceremony. While there are several opinions on when this tradition originated, it seems certain that the practice once carried a more significant meaning than it does today.
     Until the time of the Civil War, the cap and gown were worn daily by faculty and students at American universities. For those students, the turning of the tassel was a long awaited celebration after it had dangled from the same side of the cap throughout their undergraduate journey.
Today the turning of the tassel is considered to have more of a symbolic meaning than a rite of passage. Many graduates, however, guard their tassel as a lifelong keepsake (I think graduation tassels are why rearview mirrors were invented for cars!)
     My high school graduating class consisted of more than 800 students. At the end of the long ceremony, tassels were turned, caps went airborne, and pandemonium ensued!
     Besides the lauded high school graduation ceremonies, there will also be graduates this Spring from kindergarten, grade school, middle school, college and universities, nursing school, seminaries, medical school…well, you get the idea. Many students following a variety of pursuits will celebrate a milestone within the next few weeks.
     I have experienced enough years of formal education to understand that the value of my diplomas are not reflected so much by the school I attended, or the size of my certificate, or the number of letters in the degree, or even in the acquired amount of student loans.
     The value of my diploma is found in the commitment to academic pursuit in preparation for my life’s goal and calling. There is something to be said for a student’s sheer perseverance to reach the moment of turning the tassel, but it is how the student ultimately uses the lessons learned that so enrich the worth of the diploma that hangs on the wall.
Parents, teachers, and administrators play a huge role in that process, along with the student’s personal ownership of responsibility. With that thought, I sincerely congratulate all graduating students this year, and express my gratitude for those who have assumed a guiding role in the education and preparation of our students. By the way, don’t forget to keep your tassel before you toss your cap high into the air!

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