My High School Graduation

Robert Frost

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

In the public domain

My Story

I used the last lines of this poem in my high school graduation speech as Class Salutatorian. All three speakers that day were required to use Robert Frost poems in their speeches, as Frost had died a few months before, after a career in which he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature 31 times.

Ganzel Bennett, the guidance counselor who supervised the speeches, got me to change my speech to have the last lines refer to the fact that some of us in the class were going off to college and that was gonna make a big difference in our lives for the better. Years later I found my speech in a box and was horrified to read that I was basically putting down our classmates who were not able to go to college, or chose not to go. Because I was young and had not developed a backbone, I had not told Bennett to shove it, that they were my clasmates too and my friends and I certainly wasn’t gonna put them down or speak at that turning point in our lives about what might be the best choice for any of us.

Fifty plus years later I flew back home to our high school reunion, the main reason being that I wanted to apologize to my classmates. Before the Saturday banquet, I told the MC I wanted to give a short speech. Wellllll they had planned a pretty extensive program. so he wasn’t sure there’d be time for that. . . . I decided I would be giving my speech regardless of that. When the time came, he yielded the floor to me and I told the story about my speech. Probably no one had any recollection of my speech at all and no one was carrying a grudge or hard feelings about my having insulted them.

But when I got to the part about my missing backbone and the fact that I considered them all my friends, and still do, it was verrrrry well received. I got a big round of applause and some cheers. At the end, the MC took me aside and told me he was really glad I had spoken. I felt MUCH better about what I had considered was very rude on that graduation day.

Bennett is long gone and forgotten at the school. And so was I, except by some of my classmates. Today the Frost poem went into the public domain, so I was able to print it here in full. Of course it was my favorite poet, not Frost, who was actually awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature recently. I’m sure Bennett would have been horrified if I had made any mention of that poet, but I didn’t even know Bob Dylan existed in May 1963.

What Was Even More Memorable

I think what many more people remembered from that graduation was that our Concert Band performed the 1812 Overture as a prelude to the graduation ceremony. I had campaigned and won the position of President of the Concert Band my senior year and I had convinced Kruzan to let us perform the 1812 Overture as the prelude to our big day. I was far more excited about that than I was about walking up on the stage to read Bennett’s speech. Larry Doolin pounded out the cannon fire on his big bass drum. It was glorious.

And to this day, I sometimes find my tongue in my cheek and remind my wife that I am The President of the Concert Band!

Robert Frost: