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Musings on GDS’s First Graduation

When the suggestion for writing this blog came up, I couldn’t remember whether I graduated high school in 1972 or 73, so I had to scour the house to find my diploma to check my graduation year. It turns out I graduated on June 11, 1972. The diploma is lined with floating leaves and there is wonderful haiku by Yosa Buson:

Morning haze;
as in the painting of a dream,
men go their ways.

We all did go our own ways, and in my case I never really looked back. That is, until I enrolled my son this year.

GDS was an alternative school in 1972 and it was so different than the high school experiences of everyone else I knew. Upon graduation, it was onward and forward for me. Originally GDS only went through 9th grade, but they decided to start a high school with our class, so we were the first 10th grade then 11th and finally 12th grade. We graduated twice, in 9th grade and 12th grade. While GDS will host its 46th graduation next weekend, the school still feels alternative and uniquely GDS inside.

When the high school began in 1970, space was at a premium. Our 10th grade classes took place in the gym. They divided the gym into several rooms by hanging these really long, dark and heavy curtains from the rafters in order to create classrooms. The following year, the school rented space from what was once a hardware store several blocks up the street. We’d spend several parts of our day walking back and forth between the school and the hardware store. We attended literature class next to where the hammers and wrenches used to be. We were reading Herman Hess, and for some reason it seemed fitting for the time period—what with the Vietnam War going on and the monthly anti-war demonstrations happenings in DC.

The hardware store and the gym were not long-term solutions, so a new place was found, and in typical GDS fashion, our new home turned out to be at an all-girls junior college. The funny thing about Mount Vernon Junior College for Women was that we never seemed to see any college students. Our building was in a corner of the property surrounded by extremely large playing fields, and we were as isolated as if we had been surrounded by a fence. We had fun because we had free reign—neither the teachers nor the administrators seemed to have much of an idea of how we should behave. We were the inaugural class with no upper classmen to lead the way. My father, Art Buchwald, once joked, “My kids were happy. They didn’t even think of GDS as a school… what good is a child if he doesn’t hate his school?”

For our graduation, my dad spoke. This started the wonderful tradition of a parent speaking at the commencement ceremony. I hear that senior parent Kamal Ali, GDS class of 1980, is continuing the tradition this year. Our ceremony was nice and pleasantly short—there were only 16 of us to graduate. It was also the commencement speech where my father started a phrase that he continued to use for the next 30 years of commencement speeches that he gave: “We’ve left you a perfect world. Don’t screw it up!”

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