Mount Greylock Regional High Class of 2007: Remember "Gus"By Susan Bush
08:46PM / Saturday, June 09, 2007
Williamstown - The character is fictitious but the message of "Gus the blind mule," taught during this evening's commencement ceremony, may be among the best lessons delivered to the Mount Greylock Regional High School Class of 2007.
|MGRHS student-selected speaker Aaron Castonguay [Photo by Sue Bush]
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Student-chosen speaker Aaron Castonguay brought the tale to the podium and the 98-member graduating class minutes after the commencement procession ended. The story began with a blown tire, a vehicle in a ditch, and an uninjured driver with no way to get his car back onto the roadway.
With A Little Help From His Friends
"About the time he was ready to panic, a farmer came down the road in a cart pulled by a blind mule named 'Gus,'" Castonguay said. "The farmer offered to have Gus pull the car from the ditch."
The stranded driver was very unsure about the farmer's offer because Gus appeared weak and frail, but with no other options, he agreed to let the mule give it a try.
MGRHS faculty-selected speaker Grace Laidlaw [Photo by Sue Bush]
"The farmer hitched Gus the blind mule to the car, cracked his whip in the air and yelled 'Yaaaa, there Sam! Pull!' The mule did not move.The farmer cracked his whip again and yelled 'Yaaaa, there Jake! Pull! Pull!' The mule did not move."
The farmer repeated the whip-cracking and yelling, each time with a different name until finally:
"The farmer cracked his whip one final time and yelled 'Yaaaa, there. Gus, pull! Pull!' At that moment, Gus dug in his scrawny hind legs, pushed through the dirt and surged forward. Soon enough, the car turned right side up and came rolling out of the ditch and back onto the road."
"The driver was shocked, curious, and appreciative," Castonguay said. "He asked the farmer, 'Why did you call out all those other names?'"
"The farmer simply replied 'Because Gus is blind and if he thought the job was just up to him, he wouldn't even have tried.'But when Gus believes he has the support of others, he finds strength he never knew he had.'"
"I believe there is a little bit of 'Gus the blind mule' in all of us," Castonguay said. "None of the graduates beside me would have been able to complete a high school career without assistance and encouragement. I believe that our full potential has not yet been tapped and that we are all stronger than we realize. We are stronger because of the help and support we receive from our teachers, families, and especially our friends. In the years to come we cannot take everyone along on our personal journeys."
"Nevertheless, they will always be with us."
To Be Determined At A Later Date
Faculty-selected speaker Grace Laidlaw spoke about change and it's unpredictable path. She began her remarks with introductory lines of an anecdote that involved a koala bear, a firefighter, and James Bond, whose presence was made more interesting by the "007" link to the graduation year.
Laidlaw then veered away from the joke to another topic.
While trying to write her commencement speech, she tuned in, and then tuned out, a Discovery Channel television special, she said.
"Later that same day, when I finally got tired of the special, I went to a party where a group of seniors were watching a tape of a classmate's seventh birthday celebration," she said. "To be fair, I wasn't in that particular video. At the time, I was living the hippie life in Vermont."
The video showed kids enjoying the party; youths who perhaps grew apart as they grew older and now may barely speak to each other, she noted.
Class of 2007 member Kristy Hamilton [Photo by Sue Bush]
"I'm not suggesting that we all used to get along when we were children and that if we could just regress back to our second-grade selves, everything would be swell," Laidlaw said. "We had our problems, our rivalries, our cliques back then, too. But what struck me was how much our attitudes, our friendships, even our enmities have been altered since the days we listened to NOW CDs and chased each other with water balloons."
"We've changed, we've evolved - I'm sorry, we've been intelligently designed - since then, and I for one think that's pretty cool."
Laidlaw said that while still grappling with Pluto's planet status erasure and the absence of Williams College Baxter Hall, she believes change can be good.
"We all have the capacity to surprise ourselves," she said. "In a few years, we'll look back on the way we are now and be amazed."
Laidlaw shared a few personal, senior class insider predictions about the lives of several classmates and teachers that included "Nora Bayly will always stand head and shoulders above the rest of the class, not only because of her height but because of her grace and good looks and "T.J. McCarthy could run off and join a Russian commune."
"And we will always have Mount Greylock to come back to," she said. "This is the place we all have in common and no matter what we do or where we move the building, this school, like its' students, will always be every bit as strange, as unique, as lovably off-beat as it is today - there is quite literally something in the water."
It's all good! [Photo by Sue Bush]
"Some things will stay the same and that's comforting. Some things won't and that's thrilling."
Despite the likelihood that some students will fail to remain in contact with their classmates, all members of the Class of 2007 will grow and evolve in ways none of them can predict with certainty, she said.
"As we head off to the 'real world' of college and jobs, we cannot help but do the unexpected, if only because we have no idea of what's expected from us," Laidlaw said."Some of us will find fame and fortune. Others, I am assured, will find themselves constantly and inexplicably bullied into organizing PTO bake sales."
"As we make that great trek onward and upward in the world, two things await us in abundance: student loans and possibilities. For better of for worse, and I tend to think for better, or at least more interesting, our futures are as of yet undecided."
"Like the punch line of the koala/fireman/James Bon joke, the shapes of our lives are to be determined at a later date."
Class President Kelsey Dudziak welcomed family and friends to the commencement. Mount Greylock Regional School District School Committee member Timothy J. O'Brien presented diplomas.
MGRHS Class of 2007 members T.J. McCarthy and Sarah Manners [Photo by Sue Bush]
School committee member David Archibald presented a diploma to his daughter Erin Archibald and school committee member Sarah "Sally" White presented a diploma to her daughter Lucy White.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 413-663-3384 ext. 29.