In this season, graduations are happening all around. This topic got me to think of the four of which I was a participant – in particular, the one at Schenck School in 1960.

For the “honor” of having the highest grades in our class of 16, I was told by our teaching principal, Kenneth Taylor, to research, write and memorize a 20-minute speech about an aspect of Maine history – his favorite subject.

So I did. I knew every factoid of the Bloodless Aroostook War of 1838-1839 and the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.

On that fateful night in early spring I stood on the little stage in my new blue suit with my fresh buzz-cut and set forth. I was not stentorian, but everybody could hear me and not only did they learn some history that night, but as I observed the glazed-over looks of 60 pairs of eyes, I learned something, too – humiliation.

Since nobody had brought eggs and it was too early for tomatoes, my new suit escaped unscathed. It was a couple of years later that I learned Shakespeare’s “some men have greatness thrust upon them.” That night I had about all the “greatness” I could handle.

Over the years I have considered what that graduation and others have meant. In this era there were manufacturing jobs and many other ventures in faraway places, but for all, graduation meant moving on. In 1960 most of my audience had survived World War II or Korea, and in a few years many of my classmates would soon be in Vietnam. For some, those graduations were their last happy moments.

The class motto – “Knowledge is Power” – hung on a banner behind me. Did my little knowledge at that point give me power? How about knowledge which I acquired later and even now?

I suppose it has, since I sit in a comfortable place musing about life, and our old teaching principal, Ken Taylor, who had the power to assign me to deliver a speech on Maine history, got a street named after him.

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