Sunday, November 25, 2007


He graduated last in the class – But he finished

I don’t believe I have ever seen a person celebrate more than a young man who graduated at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

I had been invited to marry a couple as soon as the groom received his commission afterwhich 38 weddings were scheduled in the chapel.

The senior cadet had learned there was a few passes available and asked if my wife and I would like to attend the commencement. After accepting them, he said the service would be at 10 a.m. but suggested we come early since the president of the nation would be the main speaker. Even though the gates would open at 8 a.m., we were there before 7 hoping to beat the crowd. We were soon in the stadium and found a good seat. However, it was not long until I was in slumberland. It didn’t last long as the stadium began to fill to its capacity with thousands of people. I began to watch as the dignitaries found their place on the stage observing the dress uniforms of many high ranking navy and marine officers and the colorful robes of the academia. I was in awe with the pageantry of the affair.

Then I watched as 1014 young men and women marched to their seats in the middle of the field which awaited them. In a short time each would be awarded a commission in either the Navy or Marines --an event they had waited for four years.

After they were seated, and the designated speakers had all finished, the president of the academy acknowledged the person who graduated first in the class. The crowd replied with a thundering applause. As each student was recognized and came across the platform, I noticed that President Bush greeted each one after the award.

By now it is about 11:30 a.m. and my body was back in slumberville. I would not stay there long as I was awaken by an applause that was even greater than that given the very first fellow. I turned to the young lady who I would marry to a newly commissioned marine within hours, and asked what was the sudden stir all about. Her answer caused a query when she said, “Oh, he is the one who is graduating last in the class.” Last in the class? I muttered. Then she said, “There is an old navel academy custom that the one who graduates last receive a standing ovation because he saves the other grads from the humiliation of being last.” She continued by telling me that all the others will give him one dollar for the same reason. Well, my math teacher would have been proud when I immediately shouted $1013 dollars?

By now he was on the platform receiving his award. He jumped with excitement and stopping just long enough as he shook the hand of the nation’s president. At which time President Bush, a former naval graduate himself, who probably knew this custom, slipped off his watch and gives it to him. I thought to myself, I bet it wasn’t a Timex!

As he departed this happy guy was holding high his certificate with both hands jumping all over the platform oblivious of all the important men and women all around him.

As I observed this excited lad back to his seat, I was reminded that the academic Dean in his address revealed that 167 students that started with this class had failed to finish with them. No wonder he was rejoicing. He may have finished last-but he finished.

I am grateful that the good Lord provides for the many of us who didn’t finish first, but who have an opportunity to finish.

“Well done, good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:21

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