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the commencement

The last day and a half of the Young Scholar experience passed rapidly for Scott Tennyson. He had an organizational task he could never complete, but he had made some headway in building a database for future archivists to expand. He concluded his final report for Professor Sargon. It was a short paper, he knew. However, he felt his insights would provide a good start for the next evaluator.

Even as he was in his final hours at the Museum on Friday, he continued to uncover historical gems—publications, movies, audio recordings—that he felt might open new areas for historical investigation. He methodically logged everything into the computer. But at closing time on Friday he finished all that he could accomplish.

“Looks like it’s time go,” he said to Dr. Sargon. “I have written my report and placed it and my catalogue of documents on this flash drive.”

“Thank you so much, Scott,” responded the museum director. “It has been a real pleasure having you working for us for these past two weeks. And thanks again for substituting for me before Young Art last week. I heard it was a lively and enlightening session.”

“It was active, that’s for sure,” he confessed. “But I enjoyed it a lot, just as I’ve really loved working in the archives. Thanks for letting me do it.”

“Nothing left but the graduation ceremony tomorrow morning, and then the Young Scholars return home,” Dr. Sargon noted. “Maybe someday you’ll come back to the university to see us. Maybe you’ll even come back as a student.”

“That would be great,” Scott said with enthusiasm. “I would like that very much.”

Scott shook hands with Dr. Sargon and left the museum. The cool evening breeze was refreshing, and his leisurely walk across campus it made him feel good about himself and about academic life. “Nothing left but commencement,” he thought to himself. “This has been the best experience of my life.”

By Saturday morning the Young Scholars seemed in agreement. “This has been the greatest time of my life,” remarked Hal Johnson of Young Chemistry. “Mine too,” added George Einstein. In fact, as they filed into the auditorium for the final ceremony, all of them agreed that program was already having an impact on their lives. All of them, that is, except Steve Bergson.

“Where’s Steve?” asked Dorothy Bullock. “I don’t see him. Is something wrong with him? Is he sick? Did he sleep in?”

When no one answered, Dorothy and the others grew alarmed. “Maybe someone should run back to Stebbins and get him over here,” suggested Gloria Santana.

But Scott knew where Steve was. He let the tension rise among the group until the curtains parted. And as soon as the program began, the Young Scholars quickly learned where Steve was. “Look, Steve’s directing the university band,” Dorothy exclaimed. “He said that he wanted to do it, and he’s doing it. Way to go, Steve.”

“But he’s only conducting,” remarked Martin Maloney humorously. “He said he wanted to conduct and play First Violin as well.”

The others smiled and proudly applauded as they recognized one of their own on stage and playing an integral part in the commencement ceremony.

After the music came a number of short comments from the Young Scholar administrators followed by the introduction of professors who supervised the various student groupings. The highlight, however, was an appearance by Dr. Bernard Bachrach, the President of State University. Scott was particularly interested in what Dr. Bachrach might say because the president was also a renowned historian who had written many books about European history.

But President Bachrach said nothing about history. His focus, instead, was the future. Specifically, he spoke to the students about the importance of continuing their educations.

“There are many temptations in your life,” he began. “Do I go to work and buy that used car that will give me independence? Should I get married and begin a family?

“Maybe you’re considering taking off for a few years, then returning to your education. But what about military service? Those uniforms sure are attractive. A few years in the armed forces might do you good?

“And perhaps you’re just plain tired of school. You’re ready to say ‘Enough! No more education for me. I’m as educated as I need to be. I just want to get on with my life.’

“These are all possibilities because you are approaching a monumental stage in your lives. What you decide in the next several months will affect the rest of your lives. You’ve never had such a responsibility before. And there is no one who can decide what to do except you, yourselves.

“Let me make the case for deciding for higher education, for going to college to become well educated, well trained American citizens. You see, Young Scholars, you are my future and the future of my children and grandchildren. That’s because you and young people like you will inherit this society soon enough. You will run the United States as educators, bankers, nurses, doctors, journalists—as every type of professional our society depends upon, and maybe a few professions we haven’t heard of yet.

“But you can’t run it well if you’re undereducated, if you don’t know how the system works and how to operate it. And I and my family live in this society. We’re selfish on this point. We want this nation to work well. So, you can’t let us down. We need you to be as educated as possible.

“Make no mistake about it, Young Scholars, you are the cream of the crop in this state. Soon you’ll be entering your senior year in high school with the experience of this program behind you. We at State University would love to have you come and study with us next year. But if you don’t return here, enroll in college somewhere. Your life will be better for it, and so will be the lives of me and my family—of all families.

“So thank you for participating. I hope you have learned a lot. Above all, I hope you all have discovered that learning is exciting and ennobling. I have spent a lifetime being educated, and I have loved every minute. You will love it, too. I guarantee it.

“So, good luck with your lives, and may you all make the best decisions about your futures.”

The students applauded Dr. Bachrach’s comments. Whether they took them to heart remained to be seen. But for one Young Scholar, Scott Tennyson of John F. Kennedy High School, there was no doubt. He was going to apply to State University and hopefully enter college with the freshman class a year from now.

Scott was bitten. He loved history, but above all he loved learning, expanding his understanding, quenching his intellectual curiosity with knowledge. He also loved sharing his historical discoveries and his passion for research and interpretation. He wanted to continue doing these things.

On the train heading home Scott thought deeply about his situation. He had found a direction for his future. He wasn’t sure what kind of life one could live with a college degree in history, but he was going to find out. “I’m going to State University to be educated, not to be trained,” he assured himself. “What happens after that, happens.”

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