I attended my cousin’s baccalaureate last weekend.  I have no recollection if I attended my own baccalaureate, I don’t even remember having one.  Katie assures me, however, that I did.  And she sang at it.  Anyway, for those of you that have not attended a baccalaureate, or don’t remember yours, I’ll describe the experience.  Technically, it is the religious observation of high school graduation.  It turns out to basically be an amateur Christian Rock concert, similar to a church-sponsored America’s Got Talent.

            Upon entering the event, I immediately realized two things.  First, I have become hopelessly old.  My baccalaureate, if it did in fact exist, would have been 13 years ago.  That’s longer than the average pet’s lifespan (a fact that I’m not entirely sure about, but one that sounds convincing enough to stand by).  Could it really have been this long ago that I graduated high school?  I scanned the room, searching for something that might connect me to these young, smirking faces.  I hated their clothes, their hair.  I watched them text message without even looking down at their tiny phones.  They looked back at me as they would a teacher.  I had definitely grown old.  The second thing that I noticed was that, when you put enough women’s perfumes together in a small enclosure, it surprisingly resembles the smell of urine.

            The minister was a young man who twitched up to the podium, freshly caffeinated from his AA meeting.  He was the oldest Jonas brother.  During his introduction, he name-dropped Jesus so many times it seemed as though he thought he could cleanse one drunken day from his past with each annunciation of the word.  Most of the born-again Christian, recovering users that I have met has all been in their forties or fifties.  Seeing one as young as this gentleman made me believe that he must have done some pretty awful things that he wanted forgiven.  That he was this young, and also a minister, made me think he probably killed someone.  Possibly a nun.

            Now, I’m all for spirituality, and I’m all for turning over a new leaf.  However, there is a stereotypical, overkill-enthusiasm that can be found in recovering alcoholics and drug abusers. They are the people who use Jesus’ name in their email address, or their MySpace Username.  They are the people who incessantly praise Jesus like an eight-year old who, knowing that he is still in trouble for this afternoon’s actions, repeatedly tells his parents how delicious the vegetables taste tonight.  Frankly, it’s obnoxious to anyone not trying to cleanse their soul.   

            This intro was followed by a short speech from the schools Leadership Coach.  I’m not sure what a Leadership Coach is, but I’m guessing that it is the equivalent of the Councilors we had in my day.  This guy certainly seemed useless enough to be a Councilor.  He had a shaved head, and a long pointed goatee (chin only).  He looked like a 38 year-old man still trying to fit in at the high school where he never did fit in.

            He approached the mic and spoke a lot about how honored he was to be chosen as a speaker for this event.  Within the first minute of the speech, he managed to mention Pearl Harbor, Normandy, the Holocaust and the 9/11 attacks; he warmed the crowd up with these warm, celebratory reminders.  Then his speech took a turn toward the Even Worse.

            “I’d like to read to you some wise words from a great Irish songwriter.  I’m not sure how many of the young kids here still listen to a band called U2, or the words of Bono (pronounced Boe Noe), but I was thinking about this event, and these words came to me.”  He pulled out a 3”x5” card from his pocket.  I felt ill, though, I’m not sure if it was from something I ate, or from the rank smell of disbelief and disgust permeating through the room.  Not only did he mispronounce the name Boe Noe, but he had chosen the lyrics of a pop-dance tune, as his words of inspiration for a roomful of youths, taking the next step in the journey into adulthood.  “This is from a song called Magnificent.”

            “I was born, I was born to sing for you, I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up,” he pronounced each word slowly, like it was Byron dripping from his tongue.  “And sing whatever song you wanted me to sing.  I give you back my voice from the womb.  My first cry, it was joyful noise. Oh. Oh.”  He gave a dramatic pause at this point, looked up and scanned the room.

“Only Love, only love can leave such a mark.  But only love, only love unites our hearts.  Justified until we die you will magnify.  Oh.  Oh.”  Pause.

“Magnificent, magnificent.”  He folded up the note card, returned it to his pocket.   “Magnificent. Oh.”

This was followed by a long silence; everyone sat, dumbfounded.  To put this speech into perspective, this Leadership Teacher’s words of inspiration were followed by a young man who walked up to the podium and simply read the passage,”


“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given.”


            It appeared that perhaps the Leadership Teacher needed some direction from that anonymous boy.  Reflecting on the lyrics of many U2 songs, it also appears that Boe Noe never had that conversation with God.  I’m aware of the fact that Boe Noe does think he is God, maybe this Leadership Teacher even believes him to have divine qualities.  However, I’m fairly sure the rest of the world knows this to be untrue. I’ve never heard God sing, but I do imagine Him to have a much larger range than three notes. 

            As an attempt to protect the innocent (and my eternal soul), I will stop at this point without describing the vocal performances of the graduating teens.  However, take my advice and, if invites you to a baccalaureate, for the love of Boe Noe, tell them you have other plans.


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