Kesley Colbert
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Picking out world leaders a tricky business

I lifted my bottom slightly off the seat. And craned my neck. I still couldn’t see much through the ladies’ hats and the back of the men’s Vitalis slicked-down hair. This was going to be a long night.

It was my first-ever graduation. And it wasn’t even mine!

I’d had one of those “premonitions” that come to you when you turn 13. Getting your Sunday best clothes on on a Friday night and gathering in the high school auditorium… just didn’t seem like it was going to be as much fun as throwing crabapples at Mr. Archie Moore’s prize bull. 

Leon had spent my whole life getting me into things that I didn’t need to be in, or want to be in, or had no business being involved in. I think it was what big brothers are put on earth for. And listen, I couldn’t even see Leon. He was sitting way down in the front with the rest of the class, wearing that ridiculous-looking flat hat…. I couldn’t tell one player from another.

The welcoming speech lasted two days and a whole night! The guy kicking this program off kept repeating over and over that this class contained “the future leaders of the world.”

I thought immediately of Leon stripping down to his underwear on a 30-degree day in January and jumping into Everett’s Lake. He said he was testing his skin’s ability to absorb the cold…

I remembered the fight up at Bill Argo’s Gulf Station; Leon and Nicky Joe Stafford tied up over which tasted better, Coke or Dr Pepper. They tumbled between the pumps, rolled completely across Main Street, and ended up under the World War I cannon in the town square. 

And it was Leon and Nicky Joe who “borrowed” the red light off of the town’s police car and hooked it up to the jukebox out at Frank’s Dairy Bar. Gosh, Leon would put on that Halloween mask with the bloody hatchet stuck in the skull and run house to house yelling loud enough to wake the dead….

Kathy Williams, the Class Valedictorian, moved up to the microphone and gave a six-hour talk on how, “indeed, they were” the future leaders of America. They hadn’t even gotten down to the keynote speaker and I was already sweating bullets back in the 32nd row over the direction our world was heading….

On what I figured to be the 14th day of this crusade, Mr. Warren called out Leon’s name, he ambled across the stage, got his diploma, and was back in his seat in 14 seconds. It seemed to me a pitiful little moment for all the time he’d “put in” trying to get here.

But what did I know about graduations? This was my first one. We didn’t “graduate” as much back then as they do now. There was no gathering or speeches when we left Miss Katy’s kindergarten. She gave us some ice cream on the last day, hugged everyone and it was over. I couldn’t tell if she was sad, or glad to be rid of us.

We didn’t “graduate” from the sixth grade, or junior high. We just moved on up to the next class. Buddy Wiggleton said we were like cattle going through the auction barn. We were “institutionalized” into the flow and didn’t question what was happening. I don’t think he’d heard that part where we are going to get to be the future leaders of the world…. 

You take this graduation thing a bit more seriously when your turn comes to be down in the first few rows. And that flat hat is just as uncomfortable as it is ridiculous-looking. I’m sure it had some kind of significant meaning in Oxford, England, in the early days of academia, but a St. Louis Cardinal baseball cap would have been more appropriate for me. For sure!

I was listening to the welcoming talk much closer than at Leon’s send-off, but my mind was on what had to be an age-old question at a time such as this: Are we graduating FROM something here tonight… or TOWARD something way over on the horizon?

I didn’t know if I was supposed to be looking backward or forward.

And I sure didn’t figure it out sitting down front. This graduation went by in a nanosecond! I reckon the speed factor depends on whether the hats and Vitalis hair tonic are behind you, or in front of you.

I think back on it now from two light years and an eon later, and realize it wasn’t about what direction you were looking. It was about the people you were taking the journey with. I liked every person in my graduating class… I have fallen in love with them as our years have rolled along. 

And gosh, it turned out my future was filled with the same type of wonderful people. I don’t know that any of us “make the most” of our high school days. And many of us never set the world on fire. But, boy howdy, the special and enduring people around you make it all worthwhile.

I wish God’s richest blessings on this year’s graduates. 

And about that “world leaders” thing, I believe we would have been better off with Leon and Nicky Joe…. I know we would have had more fun!



Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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