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A Report Card for the Graduate

May 20, 2015


NOTE: Each year around this time, we read or hear on both the local and national news names of famous people who will deliver commencement addresses in our area and throughout the United States. Then, eventually, I find myself enjoying a news segment featuring highlights of memorable graduation speeches of this season of turning tassels. Although I never gave a speech to graduates–on the final class meeting of each of the courses which I taught, I, from my classroom podium, did share with my students a brief farewell address with notes of “good luck” and “best wishes.”


The following essay is too long for a Hallmark card, too short for a chapbook–but the speech below is my commencement address, never delivered. Fortunately, now, through my Wordwalk blog, I can share my thoughts about graduation from my Wordwalk podium.



After the Tassel Is Turned–A Report Card for the Graduate


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Are you ready for a another report card? Are you ready for a report card that you can carry in your wallet, access through your phone, or find in a new and mysterious way which one of you may someday invent? No matter what the medium is, I, as a former and forever teacher, am very comfortable with giving you the graduation gift of a report card for life–life after you turn your tassel to the other side.


You never wanted an “F” on any prior report card; however, on the report card which I am giving you today, you will find one “F.” If you are sitting here, you are not a failure–you are a winner; and I hope that you have learned the lesson of the “Fairness Doctrine.” No, I am not speaking of the “Fairness Doctrine,” established in 1949 and abolished in 1987 by the Federal Communications Commission. I am referring to life’s most important lesson. Life is not fair. If you have learned this lesson and keep it with you for reference for the years to come, coping with life’s challenges will be so much easier. While that “F” on this report card indicates that life is not fair, what can you do? As soon as you turn your tassel, turn to all of those around you and try to treat all of them fairly. As you proceed with your career, family, and other interests–try your best to treat co-workers, family members, friends, and strangers fairly.


Next, on this report card are two “C” marks. One “C” is for the second most important lesson which I hope you have learned and will carry with you. All of life is change. When change is good and positive, we love change. When change is hairy, hard, or heartbreaking–we could extremely dislike or even hate it. However, I encourage you to embrace change–change of whatever kind–because change is life. Coping with the good changes will be easy; coping with the challenging changes will make you the unbittered person whom you must want to be


The second “C” is for carousel. When you are at the airport of life, any best-forgotten or best-left-behind baggage that is twirling around the carousel at baggage claim is not necessarily yours to take–even if your name is on it. Some baggage of life, you must just leave behind at the carousel. Walk on; catch a new cab or take a future flight.


In the fourth and fifth spots on your report card for life are two “B” marks. Since I have been a teacher of English, please allow me to say that the initial “B” is for books. As you leave these ivy-covered buildings and the library where you have spent so much time, do not close the book on learning. Continue to delve into a variety of books. Be a lifelong learner. Read to the little children who are around you now; read to those little ones who will come into your future. Help others to learn to read. Read to those who, for whatever reason, cannot read for themselves. Instead of collecting books on bookshelves, share your books and the gift of reading. Additionally, buy “nothing” books–books with blank pages; then, at least once a month, write the highlights of your life, your family members’ lives, as well as the news of your community and your country in these books. Why do I encourage you to write these few sentences each month of the rest of your life? You will not remember all that you would like to remember, and you may not remember the date nor the year when something important happens. Okay, okay–if you do not handwrite these notes of your life into a “nothing” book, enter the memorable information into the computer device of your choice. Decades from now, you will be glad that you abided by the “B” on your graduation report card. This mark comes with one of those “graduation guarantees.”


Next, for all of you who have taken math classes, I need you to count something. The second “B” is for blessings. Today and each day for the rest of your precious life, count your blessings. If you count your blessings each day, you will not be able to feel sorry for yourself. You will be able to smile at each sunrise and feel satisfied at each sunset during the seasons of your life. With or without a ceremony, such as today’s, you will be able to celebrate your blessings.


Finally, for all of you who have collected “A” grades and all of you who wish you had collected more of them throughout the past few years, I think you will be happy to find one “A” on your report card for life. This final mark of “A” is for an altitude of gratitude. I hope that you will find this place where you can feel at home, feel community, feel challenged and comforted–a place where you can grow to your height and where you can give back. I hope that you find your altitude of gratitude–the place where you should be to become the best you can be.


Congratulations to you and to all who helped you to arrive here on your graduation day! Best wishes and good luck in finding your altitude of gratitude!



Enjoy the special ceremonies and celebrations of life!

Alice and Zoe (who thinks your report card should include a “D” for dog)


May 20, 2015, Wednesday

Post-script: A Note from My Family History

107 years ago today, my Aunt Zita was born. Besides being a most wonderful aunt, she was the owner, operator, and chef of Binole’s Restaurant, as well as the mother of two remarkable sons. With quiet grace and calmness, Aunt Zita ran her Italian restaurant, where my family and so many other families celebrated special moments and holidays. To learn more about this extraordinary woman, please read my Wordwalk blog “Remembering Aunt Zita on Her Birthday” in the May archives of 2013.



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  1. This is some commencement. I believe you have touched on so many important aspects, and a few more. Tassels moved over and hats thrown high in the air Alice. dp

  2. Reblogged this on Abbie's Corner of the World and commented:
    Yesterday, I posted a poem inspired by an event that took place at our local community college graduation. Now, if you or someone you know or love is graduating this year, here’s an ideal commencement address.

  3. Wow! This commencement address is very creative and unique. I hope our speaker in our graduation next year will do something like this as well 🙂

  4. You have earned an E for Excellent on your “Report Card for the Graduate,” Alice! Those of us who have already graduated should pause and ponder your wise words.
    Love, Mary

    • Mary–Thanks to someone who has turned a few tassels in her time and who collected many “A” grades! Talk with you soon–A & Z

  5. Fran Rayce permalink

    Another spot on piece, Alice! Your wise words are good reminders for all of us as we live our daily lives. I think your reminder that life is not fair is an especially important lesson to be learned, and sooner is better than later.

    Looking forward to meeting with you and Mary soon.

  6. Paula Lumb permalink

    Alice, this is such an exceptional commencement speech! I shall be passing it on, as I feel that the wisdom it contains is something we all can greatly benefit from. As always, your writing, the content, is amazing and from the heart of a life well lived!

    • Paula–Thank you so much for your very nice comment. I would be pleased by your passing on this “graduation speech” to others. Thanks for sharing! Always great to hear from you! Have a wonderful summer! Alice

  7. I agree with Mary–E for excellent! As always, your words capture the essence of excellence. Thanks, Alice, for sharing your wisdom with past, present, and future graduates.

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