For several weeks now, the familiar strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" have been wafting over Eastern Oregon signifying a rite of passage for hundreds of local seniors and presenting a moment of nostalgia for those who once marched to the same tune.

At the same time, anything there is to say about milestones, memories, the road ahead, or the challenges facing the Class of 2009 has probably already been said - maybe not in the same speech, but collectively by the dozens of graduating seniors who have addressed gymnasiums packed with fellow honorees, parents, friends and school staff members.

Some of the speakers have reflected on memories forged during their experiences from kindergarten through their senior year, offering up vignettes that bring a snicker from the students even though the story may be lost on the audience. Others talk of their class as if it were a giant puzzle with each of the graduates coming together to form a unique portrait. Some have said the class does not leave their alma mater as individuals but rather as a family.

Most certainly graduates have been told to "spread their wings and fly," embark on a "new chapter in their lives," and "be true to themselves."

There are those who have talked about the future - about the various paths down which members of the class will travel or the challenges that lie ahead. They sometimes speak of how the graduates, undaunted by the magnitude of those challenges, will charge into life armed with their degrees and a burning desire to make a difference.

Such is the confidence of youth.

The best graduation speeches are those which are unusable by any other class at any other school. Those are the ones which introduce the class members to the audience and which celebrate the specific accomplishments of the students.

The caps, the gowns, the music and the order of the program of events hasn't changed dramatically in several centuries. But then, it really isn't about the ceremony - that's simply a backdrop or a stage upon which the recognition of each graduate is played out.

We salute the students who make up the Class of 2009. We also salute the parents and teachers who have invested themselves in these young people.

Throughout the past few weeks, the graduates have been showered with honors, challenges, memories, and most of all, a great deal of advice.

To this year's seniors, we would add one additional thought written by Ralph Waldo Emerson perhaps 150 years ago:

" ... Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the East Oregonian editorial board, comprised of Associate Publisher Kathryn Brown, General Manager Wendy DalPez, Managing Editor Skip Nichols, News Editor Daniel Wattenburger and Senior Reporter Dean Brickey. Other columns, letters and cartoons on this page express the opinions of the authors and not necessarily that of the East Oregonian.

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