By Stephen E. Lipken
The Harrison High School Class of 2019 Commencement Exercises were held at Purchase College Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, June 26, 2019, beginning with the HHS Band playing Pre-Ceremonial Selections, “New Era Fanfare” by Randall Standridge and Finale from Johannes Brahms’s Symphony Number 1, followed by the traditional Edward Elgar, “Pomp and Circumstances.”
Welcoming the community and over 270 graduates, HHS Principal Kimberly Beukema pointed out that Graduation was not the culmination of four high school years, but rather the culmination of Kindergarten through the 12th Grade. Finding a small, “stick in the ground” rose bush when she first came to the school that eventually yielded beautiful Tea Roses and is now three and a half feet high, Beukema challenged her students to grow, thrive and blossom.
After a Musical Interlude with the Senior Chorus singing “With a Little Help from My Friends,” Student Speaker Eli Lapkin relayed the Chinese Legend of the Empty Pot, in which the Emperor gave several children seeds, directing them to grow them. The child turning in the most beautiful plant after a year’s time would be crowned Emperor.
According to Lapkin, one of the contestants, Ping, tried to grow his seed but only came up with an empty pot. In despair, Ping brought the empty planter to the Emperor; the other children produced beautiful blossoms.
Revealing that he had cooked the seeds, preventing them from growing, the Emperor crowned Ping his successor, commending his honesty. Lapkin then relayed a second parable, “Sleeping Through a Storm.” A young man, saying that he could sleep through a storm was hired by a farmer. When a storm came up, the farm hand secured all equipment, crops and fed the animals.
He was asleep during the storm but had prepared everything before he retired.
Superintendent Louis N. Wool Ed.D. told the inspiring story of Nigerian author and refugee, Chris Abani, whose mother protected him from rebels who tried to recruit him as a soldier. “She did not cry until her family was rescued.
“When Chris asked why she cried then, she replied, “I can steel my heart from danger. But a simple act of kindness can unstitch you.”