Professor Joe Goldblatt
Alexis de Toqueville was sent by the French government to the United States in 1831 to examine the prison system. Upon returning home he wrote “Democracy in America” and famously observed that “Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite.”
One one of the most frequent of these gatherings is the phenomenon known as the American high school reunion. It has become so frequent in popular culture that a USA television show entitled High School Reunion was produced in various formats between 2003 and 2010.
In 2020, my wife and I were scheduled to attend our fiftieth high school reunions in Iowa and Texas when the global pandemic suddenly interrupted our plans. Now, both of these events have been re – scheduled for autumn 2021.
When my reunion was postponed, I recommended to the organisers that we schedule a summer Zoom get together to catch up with old friends whilst we awaited the opportunity to meet in person. I also suggested that we collect the names of those students who had died so that we could honour their memory during a moment of silence. I was surprised and saddened to see that out of a class of approximately 652 persons, 134 had passed away since our graduation in 1970.
We now plan to reunite in Autumn of 2021 and I am filled with excitement and trepidation. After all, for many of us, the adolescent high school experiences and resulting memories of high school profoundly impacted the rest of our lives.
In my case, I was an outsider, who was part of a small clique of students who participated in dramatic productions I recently confirmed my outsider status by reviewing the list of prominent graduates from our high school and the majority were highly accomplished athletes.
In addition to segregating myself by affiliating with my dramatic friends I was also a protester of the Vietnam war and during this period I applied for and received my official conscientious objector status through my local military draft board. Although during this period American society was marked by many protests and the hippie “free love” movement, in my conservative neighbourhood, those of us who chose this different path were highly suspect and sometimes held in contempt by some members of the larger population.
Therefore, during the intervening fifty – one years since our graduation, I am curious to see and hear how my fellow students recall those turbulent times and how their views may have evolved during the past half century. In my own case, I have actually become more liberal and forgiving of the awkward moments that accompanied being an adolsecent in the late nineteen sixties. However, as my mother often taught me, it is noble to forgive and dangerous to forget. By this she meant that it takes character to forgive the trespasses of ourselves and others and we should also remember these missteps in order to avoid them in the future.
As I look forward to our reunion, I am riddled with many questions. Will the tall beautiful blond girl who sat in front of me in typing class still ignore me? Will the athletic hero whom I admired still exhibit his good looks? Will we intimately share our common fears and hopes for the future or shall we only dwell upon our nostalgic past?
During our lifetime, we have collectively experienced many economic recessions, a U.S. presidential assasination (which sadly occurred in our home city), natural disasters, social upheaval, a cure for polio and now a new global pandemic. Individually, we have each experienced many different types of loss, success, and much uncertainty.
When I return to Scotland from my reunion I hope that I have even more to report than did de Toqueville. It is my desire to not only witness and actively participate in the uniting of old friends but also experience some new intimate encounters that offer both healing and hope for our troubled world.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the author, co – author and editor of 40 books in the field of events management. He graduated from W.W. Samuell High School in Dallas, Texas in 1970. To learn more about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot