I slept through more morning events at the boarding school I attended than I really care to remember; when you go to sleep with the radio tuned to Oldies 100 because it’s one of approximately two things that makes you happy, and the alarm is off (as it had to be, with this clock radio, to be able to listen to music), it doesn’t tend to wake you up in the morning. But I was present for my fair share of morning assemblies, including a Friday assembly the day before prom (where I went to school, we had class on Saturday, so it kinda didn’t make sense to have class the day after something like prom). There were the usual announcements about nothing and everything all at once, and then the boys’ varsity lacrosse coach, who also served as varsity football and hockey coach, taught freshman english and was a houseparent in the freshman boys’ dorm, got up to speak. He stepped onto the stage, as did anyone who wanted to make an announcement (the theater doubled as assembly room), and the curtains folded to either side to reveal a blown-up rendering of the cover of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess.
Now, this man, whom I'll call Mr. Mortenson (because that's his name), was suspected by a good number of us to have taken perhaps one hit too many playing sports in his formative years. So when he started reading from that book, most of us thought it was a joke. A good number of us, myself included, started chuckling at the fact that a grown man was reading Dr. Suess to us, a group of very mature high-schoolers who had our lives under control and did not especially benefit from childrens' books.
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!”
On he read. We, who were much too mature and grown-up to read Dr. Seuss, had no earthly idea how much time he was going to use with thos unnecessary drivel. And so eventually (after a minute or so), the laughter torned to boredom and then to annoyance.
“You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.”
On he read.
"Except when you don’ t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you."
Here it might be pertinent to know that the average assembly lasted under twenty minutes. Now, while your average literary gem from the good Doctor is not quite as long as the Bible, it does noticeably outflank your typical male college student's shopping list (condoms, beer, ramen noodles and the occasional Cliff's Notes). And as Mr. Mortenson's hadn't been the only "announcement", we were running into classtime. It seemed as though faculty and students, by and large, had been equally informed of this reading, and they didn't seem especially thrilled either.
“Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.”
So it's a quarter of nine and class "began" ten minutes ago. And we're all pretty tired of this by now, except for the few (and in a school of 300, I mean a few) who were still entertained. And (as I know now, but didn't then) he's winding down, and Seuss is talking about how you have to be careful what you do, because sometimes you'll meet things you can't figure out, and keep your shoes on the proper feet, or something like that.
“And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.”
And he finishes a little bit later and then his. demeanor. changes. He had been serious, but not overly so, taking care to turn pages and having fun reading to us, because this is a man whose two great loves are lacrosse and English, and as he put it to us once, "The only thing I love more than lacrosse is English". Now he's just shy of Wrath of God, but has enough "I love you all like you were my kids" in his delivery and face and such that we're not afraid, just very attentive. And as he stops reading, he adds his own message for the not-so-bright (or, if you prefer, "Took one too many hits in their formative years). I don't remember the exact phrasing, but it went something like this: "You're going to face a lot of choices and have a lot of opportunities in your lives. You're going to do a lot of stupid things. Tomorrow you're going to be faced with a big choice. Don't make the stupid choice; don't drink and drive." Only time I can remember somber, dead silence following an assembly.
[sub]End note: I wasn’t sure if I was violating board rules by quoting so much of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”. I hope it was obvious to all that I was quoting and not using the work as my own, but if y’all who run the place want to delete most of what I quoted, please feel free. It was only when I could access the text online that I added the quotes.[/sub]