Eleanor Roosevelt High School Baccalaureate Celebration
Each year before graduation, an interfaith baccalaureate celebration is held at Eleanor Roosevelt High School’s auditorium to honor the graduating class. This service is sponsored by the Greenbelt Interfaith Leadership Associations (GILA) and is attended by leaders of many faith traditions.
Established in 1978, the Eleanor Roosevelt High School is located in Greenbelt East and is generally considered the best public high school in Prince George’s County. With about 3,000 students, the school is known for its science and technology program.
Graduating seniors in caps and gowns enter the auditorium.
The Eleanor Roosevelt High School Air Force Junior ROTC Color Guard with the flags of the United States and the State of Maryland prepares to walk on stage.
Religious representatives on stage are from right Rev. Fay Lundin of Mowatt Memorial United Methodist Church, Rev. Demetrius Price of Reid Temple, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Mr. James Sturdivant of Greenbelt Baha’i Community, Rev. James Lawton of Berwyn Presbyterian Church, Rabbi Jonathan Cohen of Mishkan Torah Synagogue, and Ms. Zelda Bell of Soka Gakkai International—U.S.A, a Buddhist organization.
The Air Force JROTC Color Guard presents the colors of the United States and Maryland and the National Anthem is sung.
Eleanor Roosevelt High School Principal Reginald McNeill welcomes everyone to the baccalaureate celebration: “This class is the best class that has come through Eleanor Roosevelt High School.”
Rev. Fay Lundin of Mowatt Memorial United Methodist Church introduces the call to worship.
Zelda Bell of Soka Gakkai International—U.S.A. rings a Buddhist gong before chanting “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,” which is the Japanese title of the Lotus Sutra. On the program there is also the blowing of a shofar but because of technical difficulties it will not be carried out.
Three Eleanor Roosevelt students perform the ritual of unity. Each pours a bottle of water into a glass vase and then each places a flower in the vase. The students are from left Lee Friedman, who is Jewish, Saera Suhail, who is Muslim, and Alston Olds, who is Christian. They are “representing the variety of religious traditions at ERHS.”
Amber Youhouse is tonight’s Mistress of Ceremonies and she is the senior class president.
Three representatives of the senior class give spiritual reflections. Lee Friedman says that he has been a minority all his life and in a school of almost 3,000 he only knows a handful of Jewish students. He talks about how his faith has inspired him.
Alston Olds is a member of the Blessed Choir.
Saera Suhail is a member of the Muslim Club.
The Pearls, Eleanor Roosevelt’s a cappella choir, sings “True Colors”:
I see your true colors
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow
James Sturdivant of the Greenbelt Baha’i Community, representing the Greenbelt Interfaith Leadership Association (GILA), recognizes the faith-based clubs at Eleanor Roosevelt High School.
Sturdivant presents Saera Suhail of the Muslim Club a check on behave of GILA.
Rev. Demetrius Price of Reid Temple, African Methodist Episcopal Church in Glenn Dale leads the statement of affirmation.
Adult congregation: “Graduates, the religious community as a whole hereby recognizes your new status. As you have grown, your individual congregations have provided important building blocks for the emergence of spiritual maturity. Now we ask you to recommit with us to help our lives together match the ideals we profess, so that our religious communities can be ever more effective in their sacred work.”
Graduates: “We accept this challenge.”
The Blessed Choir performs “Expect the Great” by Jonathan Nelson:
This is just the beginning
The year of refreshing
His plan now unfolding
The time of your great blessing
Rabbi Jonathan Cohen of Mishkan Torah Synagogue gives tonight’s keynote address. He says that since his high school graduation in 1966, almost 50 years ago, he has listened to many forgettable speeches but one from his son’s graduation has stayed with him. It was given by Robert H. Smith, a builder and philanthropist in the Washington region and it talked about failure—“how to fail successfully.” First, according to Smith, “it is oftentimes the very fear of failure that leads us to a failure of principles.” Second, also according to Smith, “those who fear failure are never truly able to succeed.” The third point is added by Cohen: “It is the time of failure that is the time to begin dreaming new dreams.” He tells a story of how a jeweler turned a crack in a diamond into the stem of a beautiful rose.
Eleanor Roosevelt High School Symphony and Chamber Orchestras perform “Intermezzo” from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni.
Rev. James Lawton of Berwyn Presbyterian Church gives the closing prayer.
Graduates of the Class of 2012
Signing each other’s yearbook
Graduates and families of the Class of 2012
Eleanor Roosevelt’s baccalaureate service started in the 1970s. Because of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution separating church and state, public schools may not sponsor religious services. This baccalaureate celebration is sponsored by the Greenbelt Interfaith Leadership Association, and attendance is voluntary.