Reflections at the 40th Anniversary Reunion of the Class of ’75 from Homewood-Flossmoor High School

Last weekend I not only was able to attend the reunion celebration of the 40th anniversary of the graduating class of 1975 from Homewood-Flossmoor High School, but I had a chance to participate in the planning and executing of the event.  I came back to the Chicagoland area in 2013 from the Los Angeles area, and after I decided to stay in the area and not move back to California, I started putting down roots locally in a place I hadn’t lived for three decades.

I joined a local church, a local Toastmasters Club, and a professional association, the Chicagoland chapter of the Project Management Institute.   While getting to know the area once again, I was invited by Tina Landry to go to some of the local get-togethers she chad organized for those members of the class of ’75 who lived in the general Chicagoland area.

She at one point told me about her plans for the next major reunion for the 40th anniversary of the class of ’75, and I asked her if I could get involved.  You see, I felt a little guilty for not having been to any of the major reunions before, and frankly, I wanted to give back to the class whom I had for the most part ignored during most of my adult life.

Since she knew I was the President of the local Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters Club, she asked if I could be the emcee for the event.  Well,  last Saturday evening was the actual event, and I should say the event went well overall.

However, as a Toastmaster, I’m glad my experience kept me from being flummoxed, because on the surface there seemed to be some problems with the event.  First of all, the main host, Tina Landry, was late because of traffic, so we ended up starting the class group photos after she arrived at 7:00 PM rather than the 6:30 PM we had originally planned for.   My opening remarks were supposed to take place from 7:00-7:30 PM, at which time dinner was supposed to start.

By 7:30 PM, the class group photos were done, but dinner started being served.  I had a hell of a time getting people to listen to me at the microphone—I had dispensed with my scripted remarks and was just trying to give the bare bones announcements to everyone as to how the tables would be called individually by the photographer to go the buffet table.  In retrospect, I understand why they resisted quieting down for the announcements—it had been 40 years since most of them had seen each other!

So I took it in stride, and kept my after dinner remarks to an absolute minimum as well, knowing full well that  people wanted to continue with the conversation that had been previously interrupted by 40 years worth of time.  But as I once told someone, there are three stages to being a Toastmaster.  One is when you are afraid to get on stage.  The second is where you are afraid to get OFF stage, because you are starting to enjoy the attention that comes with being a good public speaker.  However, the third stage is when you know when it is the right time to get on stage, and when it is the right time to get off stage, meaning your message and your audience’s needs are ultimately more important than you are.   That allowed me to “go with the flow” and adapt myself without too much difficulty.

Now, I did have a chance to mingle with everyone after my remarks and I made some observations based on the various conversations I had.

  1. Who you are is more important than what you do

Those people I gravitated towards were those people who had a positive personality .  If they had a negative personality, it’s of course possible that they wouldn’t have come to such an event.  But those people who se names and faces stuck with me were the ones who expressed joy at seeing me again, not those who were interested in comparing careers to see who was more successful.

  1. Passion is more important than profit

Those people who were artists of some sort, such as musicians or theater people, and who pursued the passion they explored in high school, were some of the happiest people I met at the reunion.  My own passion, for foreign languages, was shared by a few classmates, and we had a great time talking about how it made us see the world differently than those people who can only speak one language.  The combination of passion and discipline will see you through life!

  1. Gratitude is the best attitude

Many of the graduating class of 1975 are not with us anymore, and this reality was brought home to me by the news that 2 of the people I had reformed an acquaintance with since coming to Chicagoland had recently contracted cancer.  This made me realize that the petty pursuit of prestige is just chasing after a mirage.  The person who has helped the most people and who is remembered fondly by them, like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, are truly the richest people in town.

  1. Passing on the torch

Talking to the dozen or so teachers whom we invited to the reunion was perhaps for me the most revealing of my conversations I had that night.  They have retired, but only from their positions as instructors—most of them are busy volunteering to help the next generation of teachers to become more effectively in their profession.  For example, Shari Cohen, our biology teacher at H-F High School, now goes around demonstrating how to create and implement an AP Biology program at the high school level.  They really want to impart the wisdom they have gained through, in many cases, three decades of experience, to the teachers who want to make a difference for the next generation of students.

So looking back on my high school experience, I can say that it was the privilege of a lifetime to be who we were, when we were (the mid-70s), where we were (at Homewood-Flossmoor High School).  We are now living in the world that was starting to open up for us back then.   Those who remained truer to their own passions and dreams are the ones that seem to me to be the most fulfilled.  But whoever you were, you can always strive to more than you are now.  A lifelong love of learning is the best ticket to a good and wise life!


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