A recent CNN news article by David Williams had an interesting story with a creative twist.
Zander Moricz, the class president at a Florida high school couldn’t say “gay” in his graduation speech because of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, so he talked about something else that made him different from his classmates: his curly hair.
Zander began his graduation address by removing his mortarboard and pointing at his head. “I used to hate my curls,” he said and told the audience how he tried desperately to straighten that part of himself. He confessed that curly hair is difficult in Florida because of the humidity, so he decided to just be proud of who he was and came to school as his “authentic self.”
There weren’t any other “curly-haired people” to talk to in school, so he went to his teachers for guidance, and their support helped him. “There are going to be so many kids with curly hair” he said, “who need a (supportive) community and won’t have one. Instead, they’ll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida’s humid climate.”
Zander closed by reminding his fellow students of the times they rallied against anti-Black violence and to draw attention to the climate crisis, and he told them that they have power and they need to use it. “When you waste your power,” he said in his speech, “what you’re really doing is giving it to whoever has the most already, and right now, those who have the most are coming for those who have the least.” This is good advice for all of us, whether or not we have curly hair.
June 4 was high school graduation day for Sky, our fifth grandchild. It was a beautiful day, but we weren’t sorry that the ceremony was held in the air-conditioned gym instead of outdoors in the blazing sun. Compared to the graduating classes of our first four grandchildren, this was a small group: 143 graduates. While we were waiting for the graduates to enter the gym and get things going, Dean noticed that Bernie Sanders was in attendance.
There was an empty chair and a wreath in a front corner of the gym in memory of a classmate who died.
The graduates entered the gym right on time. Notice that Sky’s long-legged stride requires the entire width of the hem on his gown.
With only 143 graduates, you’d think the ceremony would be shorter than an event for 500-600 graduates, but that wasn’t the case. There is apparently a requirement that graduation audience members spend a minimum of two hours sitting on backless bleachers waiting for the 15 seconds in which they can watch the one person each of them cares about. To make this happen, there were several musical selections and six speakers, all of whom told the graduates that they are part of an amazing class and that they should aim high because the world is theirs for the taking. Unlike most graduation speeches, I actually remember one of them, but that’s probably because the speaker used props and three of the graduates to help him make his point. (In other words, it was interesting and unique.) His story is too long to tell here, but his final point was that sometimes, when you fail to reach your goal, you discover something even better than what you were striving for.
Finally, after nearly 90 minutes of speeches and musical numbers, it was time to recognize the achievements of the graduates. Sky graduated Magna Cum Laude, which required a GPS of at least 4.0 plus at least four college-level classes. The Magna Cum Laude grads wore gold stoles.
After a variety of honors were recognized, it was finally time for “our” graduate’s 15 seconds of fame. Sky had his official graduation picture taken with the principal. Check out the shortest lady on the platform (second from the right). She’s the president of the Board of Education. Naturally, she stood next to the tallest person on the platform.
Sky received his actual diploma–no need to pick it up at the school office next week or to watch for it in the mail.
After all 143 grads had a diploma, they moved their tassels from right to left. Dean explained that the tassel moves from the passenger side (right) to the driver’s seat (left). Thanks, Dean. I’ll finally be able to remember which way it goes. The last step of the ceremony was the traditional mortarboard toss. The maroon mortarboards don’t show very well against the crowd in my photo, but if you look closely, you’ll see them.
When we got back to the house, it was time for family photos. I think we covered every combination of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, girlfriend, etc. with everyone’s cameras. Here are three: Sky with Mom and Dad; Sky with Grandma and Grandpa (minus his gown); and Sky with the entire group (picture taken by Sky’s girlfriend).
When Sky took off his cap and gown, Teddy decided to practice for his future graduation.
Next step: opening graduation gifts.
To top off the day, Kari and Dean hosted a graduation dinner at Maggiano’s restaurant. Sky chose the restaurant because he likes Italian food and because he liked Maggiano’s when Ted and I chose it for our 50th wedding anniversary. The food was delicious, and we all had a good time.
But wait! The party’s not over! Ted and I hosted lunch for the graduation gang the following day. With shipping costs so high, we took advantage of Kathy and Annette being in town to celebrate several other events after lunch. There were birthday gifts for those who have birthdays in May, an anniversary gift for Ted’s and my anniversary in June, and Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts.
Then there was time to visit with each other and to enjoy the pool and the beautiful weather.
Finally, it was time for Kathy and Annette to head home and for all of us to kick back, relax, and enjoy the memories of a happy weekend together. Congratulations, Sky–#5.
When I biked the Katy Trail in the 1990s, I thought it was boring. It’s a hard-packed fine gravel trail and you can’t “loop” it–you bike in one direction, then turn around and see the same scenery in the other direction. When our ebikes inspired Ted and me to become more dedicated bikers (our pedal-assist ebikes have a serious fun factor), we decided to try as many of the metro area’s bike trails as possible. I somewhat reluctantly included the Katy Trail on our list of trails to ride just because it’s a metro area bike trail. The result: I’ve come to love the Katy. Why? First, it’s a long trail (200+ miles across the state along the Missouri River), so even on busy days, it’s not crowded and you can bike relatively long stretches without seeing another biker (or walker); second, it’s quiet and peaceful; and third, there are pretty views all along the trail.
Ted and I biked 20 miles on the Katy (10 miles in each direction, of course) twice in May and I was reminded of what a nice ride it is. As we headed west from Defiance on the first ride, I noticed that the only sounds were the birds and the crunch of our bicycle wheels on the gravel. In addition, the Katy provides beautiful views of the river, the trees, the river bluffs, wildflowers, farms, small river towns, etc.
Each of our two May rides had an adventure–one less pleasant than the other. On our westward ride, we found a side trail that led to a park and decided to take it. It turned out to be two miles of rough trail to the park. In some places, the trail was very steep with switchback turns that were too sharp to maintain our uphill momentum, so we had to walk our bikes up. When we arrived at the park, it was disappointing: a parking lot and a small lake for fishing. I think there’s more to the park (somewhere), but we didn’t see a good way to search for it, so we started back downhill. I was lucky and made it down; Ted’s bike slipped on the loose gravel and he needed a half dozen Band-Aids on his knee and on his elbow. It’s a good thing we keep a few first aid items in our bike bags so we could clean him up and cover the wounds. That little side trail is permanently off our list.
Our second Katy ride was eastward from the MO Research Park to Frontier Park in St. Charles, a nice turnaround point. We’ve done that stretch before, and it’s very relaxing to sit in the park and watch the people and the river for a little while before turning back. Frontier Park is a nice starting/stopping point for another reason too: it’s right across the street from historic Main Street and its shopping. Two of our favorite snack stops on Main Street are Grandma’s Cookies and Kilwin’s. It was a hot day, so we voted for Kilwin’s. Here’s what you can buy at Kilwin’s.
We got in line and ordered ice cream sundaes.
The sundaes were delicious. Kilwin’s refilled our water bottles for our return trip, and we had another nice afternoon on the Katy.
The Onion is infamous for this headline because the satirical news outlet runs it after nearly every mass shooting. It was the front page headline and story again after the Uvalde, TX school shooting on May 24. The Onion ran the story 21 times that day, referring to a different mass shooting each time. The Onion article continues by saying that, after every mass shooting, someone says, “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them.” The Onion’s story always ends with the same sentence: “At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as ‘helpless.'”
In reaction to the Uvalde school shooting, Golden State Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, banged on the table during an interview and shouted, “When are we going to do something? I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I’m sorry, excuse me, I’m sorry, I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough!” Then he left the interview.
In his address to the nation, President Biden asked, “What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill people? Deer aren’t running through the forests with Kevlar vests.”
Schools that experienced a mass shooting are often closed or entirely renovated to decrease the traumatic reminders they present to their communities. Until last week, I was unaware that federal legislation created a grant funding process for schools to be razed after a mass shooting. After the Uvalde shooting, Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez asked, “What kind of world are we living in that legislation was created for razing these schools?”
In the past week, I’ve learned that the United States is number one in the world for gun ownership. Civilians in the U.S. own 120.50 guns per 100 people, nearly twice as many as the second-ranking nation, the Falkland Islands, at 62.2 guns per 100 people.
I also learned that an assault rifle can fire 45 rounds per minute; however, assault rifles can be modified with a rapid-fire trigger that allows them to fire as many as 950 rounds per minute. I, personally, have never fired a gun and I have no desire to ever do so. That said, I’m confident that I could hold an assault rifle with a 30-round magazine, aim it in the general direction of a target, and hit the target. I can’t call that a “sporting” gun. It’s meant for murder, nothing less.
The Uvalde shooter purchased 1,657 rounds of ammunition with a debit card. U.S. soldiers carry 210 rounds into combat in 7 magazines of 30 rounds each. One magazine is in the soldier’s rifle and each soldier has 6 spare magazines. After the Uvalde shooting, 60 magazines were found–58 on the Uvalde school property and 2 at the shooter’s home. At 30 rounds per magazine, that’s 1,800 rounds of ammunition–8.5 times what a combat soldier carries into battle. 315 cartridges were found inside the school (142 of them were spent cartridges) and 192 were found outside on the school property (22 were spent cartridges). Why do civilians need a weapon that was designed for the military? Why can an individual civilian buy more ammunition than soldiers take into combat?
I understand that the Constitution supports the right of individuals to bear arms. The right to bear arms, however, does not necessarily preclude a need for background checks and a waiting period prior to purchasing a gun, nor does it necessarily mean that military weaponry should be available to civilians. Why are so many gun proponents opposed to a background check? What background check discoveries do they fear? Why is a waiting period an issue of contention? In other words, what are potential gun owners in such a hurry to shoot? Where does the line fall between the second amendment right to own a gun and the right of citizens to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” without fear of becoming a victim of a mass shooting?
Within days of a rare mass shooting that killed 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand (March 15, 2019), the country banned most semi-automatic firearms. Since then, New Zealand has had only 4 mass shootings. In comparison, the U.S. has had 214 mass shootings in the first 5 months of 2022. (New Zealand has 26.3 guns per 100 people-4.5 times fewer than the U.S.) Only a few days ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said, “One Canadian killed by gun violence is one too many.” Canada has banned 1,500 types of military-style assault firearms, and a new bill Trudeau is proposing will prevent people from buying, selling, and transferring handguns within the country. The new bill also stipulates that firearms will be confiscated from those involved in domestic criminal harassment cases. I don’t think those laws are unreasonable. What sane person would want guns in the hands of violent persons? Which gun owner will have to be gun-less if s/he cannot own a military assault rifle?
130 people were killed by guns in the United States over the past weekend. How many gun deaths will be enough to convince our legislators that gun control measures are necessary? How many more innocent school children, church-goers, concert attendees, grocery shoppers, mall walkers, movie-goers, etc., etc. need to die by gunfire before our voters and our legislators recognize the futility of thoughts and prayers and the need for gun control laws? Enough!