Published Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:14 pm
George Ayoub: New graduates will need to showcase community skills

All right, listen up, graduates.

Everybody set your music devices to “Commencement.”

Tradition requires Edward Elgar's “Pomp and Circumstance,” but your graduation play list really should include the Beatles — or Joe Cocker, if you want to be a little more bluesy.

That's because, while you may have worked hard, stayed focused and handled your business, you didn't get here without a little help from your friends.

Sing it, brothers and sisters.

Yes, math was brutal, research papers painful and finals designed for GPA destruction. Somehow you persevered and now are ready to grab some sheepskin and make your mark on the world.

Before you save the planet and make your first million, however, consider the people who filled potholes, swept debris and perhaps even directed traffic along your journey.

This time of year, we grow downright reverential and nod in agreement when commencement speakers and yearbook autographers refer to making it through “good times and bad.”

I've never really understood the sentiment. Frankly, how hard can it be to make it through the good times? Navigating the bad times and still rocking graduation, now that's something to hang your baccalaureate bonnet on.

It's also a good time to remember (as the song says) who stayed and who stood and walked out when you did sing out of tune. They not only stayed; they lent you their ears.

OK, I'm about out of lyrical references from “With a Little Help From My Friends.” (Readers applaud everywhere.)

Still, dear graduates, never underestimate the power of community, however small. Even in a nation steeped in the images of rugged individualism, a group with common goals and commitments can achieve enormous victories and overcome the most difficult obstacles.

And help each other stay on key.

As we celebrate each of your individual achievements — the wonder of you — I'd argue that your trip to tasselville was adorned with the trappings of us.

Here's some extra credit for you, a last assignment, for which you will earn nothing but the grace of knowing: You and millions of grads will be the recipients of cards and baubles and gifts for making the grade. Very nice — enjoy.

For each card or gift or even a well wish you get from someone, write down that person's name and then detail at least one thing he or she did to help you along the way — when you hit the high notes or when you sang out of tune. (Sorry, but it worked here.)

Then send it to them with a thanks — and maybe throw them a party.

What? Graduates having parties for their friends? That would knock modern graduation celebrations on their sheet cakes and punch bowls.

In a way, the contemporary grad party crawl is a way to say thanks, but it isn't a note in ink or a planned face-to-face. Try it.

Understanding this friend/community link to your success may be one of your most important lessons. While “me” is the basis of a nation founded on individual liberty, “us” is common — and critical.

The world operates in millions of little teams: families, congregations, departments, dens, platoons, posses, partners, cadres, bands, circles, societies, shifts, troops, tandems, trios, leagues, clubs, cliques and one you're celebrating today — classes.

The formula requires you not simply to belong to the team but also to bring something to it.

The good news: You probably already know how.

That's because chances are you've been there when the songs of your friends and almost friends and sometimes even strangers soured — or worse, fell silent.

Learn the skills: Having and being a friend, being part of a community, a partnership, where your me is the perfect fit in a larger us.

OK, somebody help me off this soapbox and let's start singing.

The Joe Cocker version, please.

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