May 2, 2007 Edition

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The commencement
ceremony: A family affair

By Linda Lou Moore

Congratulations Class of 2007! Whether you are graduating from high school and entering adulthood or completing your college studies, graduation is an event to celebrate. Graduation is an exciting time and the graduation ceremony is a longstanding tradition. Webster's New World Dictionary defines the word ceremony as: "A set of formal acts proper to a special occasion."

The commencement ceremony is a milestone in both the graduate's life and in the life of the graduate's family. The purpose of the commencement ceremony is to confer diplomas or degrees to graduates. With so many casual events it's easy to forget the formality of this special occasion.

The school administration, faculty and students want family and friends to enjoy the ceremony. Respecting not only the graduates, but those in the audience, makes for an enjoyable and memorable event.

Audience etiquette

Do obtain any special graduation information from the school.

Do try to arrive early and find your seat.

Don't arrive late. It is disruptive and distracting to those around you.

Do stand for the processional, recessional, National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance and the School Alma Mater.

Do applaud when it is appropriate.

Do turn off cell phones.

Don't forget that others are trying to listen. Screaming or cheering after the announcement of the name of the graduate interrupts the announcement of the next name.

Don't use noisemakers, air horns or other noise-making equipment. This interferes with the dignity of the ceremony. Even though field houses, gymnasiums and stadiums are used, the ceremony is not a sporting event.

Do take pictures from your seat.

Don't try to crawl over others or try to get on stage to take photographs. Most schools have a photographer on stage to take a picture of the graduate as he or she receives their diploma.

Don't block the view of others.

Do dress appropriately for this special occasion. Dress should show respect for the graduates and the ceremony.

Do remember that babies and very young children will not appreciate the long ceremony. It is easy for them to become restless, if possible, try to make arrangements for a baby-sitter. If a baby sitter is not an option then consider sitting in an area that is convenient for you to step out if your child begins to cry. The audience will appreciate your courtesy.

Do remain seated until the ceremony is over.

Don't leave after your graduate's name is announced. Since all graduates are being honored, wait until the ceremony concludes. Leaving early can be disruptive and is noticed by the audience and the graduates.

Do try to be aware of those who require handicapped seating.

Do take the program as a souvenir.

Graduate etiquette

The purpose of the graduation ceremony is to honor the graduate. After years of school and long hours of study, the time has finally arrived. With all the excitement it may be easy to overlook some important steps concerning graduation.

Cap and gown guidelines

Wearing the cap and gown for graduation is a long standing tradition.

The wearing of the cap and gown dates back to the university scholars of the Fourteenth Century. The tradition of wearing caps and gowns at high school graduations did not gain widespread acceptance until the early 1900s.

Initially, the caps and gowns that were worn in high school ceremonies were gray and were made of wool or poplin. Today, gowns are lightweight, comfortable and are available in traditional and contemporary colors.

Remember the following guidelines for wearing caps and gowns:

Quote of the week: "It is indeed ironic that we spend our school days yearning to graduate, and our remaining days waxing nostalgic about our school days." ~ Isabel Waxman

Linda Lou Moore of Paragould is trained and certified by The Protocol School of Washington, Washington, D.C. She offers customized individual and group etiquette programs for children, teens and adults. She may be reached at Post Office Box 145, Paragould, AR 72451 or at

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