Saturday Night Program

For those who were unable to attend, or those who did but want to relive the experience, here is the program from the Saturday night dinner of the 50th Reunion.  

Before dinner began, a blessing was given by Alan Hagstrom.
Thank you, James, for that introduction and for inviting me to offer the blessing. It is an honor to be able to do so.
On our reunion web site, I shared a photo of the Whittier kindergarten class. Surprisingly, I think I can name just about everyone in that photo, and while doing so, bring to mind many memories. They are the original group of school friends, some of whom are here tonight, which, of course, is an amazing reality all by itself.
I can’t say I’ve kept up with most of the reunion posts, but it has been fascinating to read about the ones I have and the lives we have lived since 1963: occupations, families, accomplishments, challenges, risks taken, hopes realized and not realized. All of it brought with us in one way or another as we come to be together tonight, importantly different people now, yet bound by “Those things that are best.”
The opportunity we all have simply to be here is a gift, quite nicely put, I think, by Daphne Rose Kingma in the book “A Grateful Heart, Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to The Beatles”:
How easily we can forget how precious life is! So long as we can remember, we’ve just been here, being alive. Unlike other things for which we have a comparison – black to white, day to night, good to bad – we are so immersed in life that we can see it only in the context of itself. We don’t see life as compared to anything, to not-being, for example, to never having been born. Life just is.
But life itself is a gift. It’s a compliment just being born: to feel, breathe, think, play dance, sing, work, make love, for this particular lifetime. 
Today, let’s give thanks for life. For life itself! For simply being born!
So, there are many ways we are blessed tonight, starting with God’s gift of our very being; And then, by safe travel to this fiftieth reunion, by the meal we are about to share, by those who have carefully prepared it, planned for it, and helped make this coming together possible. We are blessed by the memories of those classmates who are no longer with us and are on our minds tonight, friends whose lives have been their own blessing to many through the years.
We are blessed by those who taught, coached, cajoled and encouraged us during our high school years and after; By those who became our families, circle of friends, and mentors; By a great host of people and occasions in our lives that have inspired and challenged us. 
So, gracious God, tonight grant us a spirit of gratitude, a time of hope and celebration, the ways of love, and your presence always. Amen.
The after dinner program began with an acknowledgement of all those who worked to make the reunion a success. It was followed by a poem which was found and recited by Nancy Murphy Testa.
Class Reunion by Elizabeth Lucas
It was my class reunion and all through the house
I checked in each mirror and begged my poor spouse
To say I looked great, that my chin wasn't doubled,
And he lied through false teeth, just to stay out of trouble,
Said that 'neath my thick glasses, my eyes hadn't changed,
And I had the same figure, it was just a mite rearranged.
He said my skin was still silky, although looser in drape.
Not so much like smooth satin, but more like silk crepe.
I swallowed his words hook, sinker and line
And entered the banquet feeling just fine.
Somehow I'd expected my classmates to stay
As young as they were on that long-ago day
we'd hugged farewell jugs.
But like me, through the years,
They'd added gray to their hair, or pounds to their rears.
But as we shared a few memories and
retold some class jokes,
we were eighteen in spirit, though we looked like our folks.
We turned up hearing aid volumes and
dimmed down the light,
Rolled back the years and were young for the night.
The next presentation was by Michael Epstein.  It consisted of the remarks below, followed by a video presentation which you can see by clicking on the link at the end of his remarks.
Good evening.  What a pleasure it is to have gathered this weekend to celebrate the fact that we are all still alive and vertical!  And I want to thank those folks who made tonight possible.  First to James and Sue and the members of the Committee who did the hard work that resulted in this weekend’s reunion.  Unpaid, usually unnoticed, and frequently, just plain slogging through the mud of mundane details, their efforts are greatly appreciated.  I also want to thank the Oak Park Country Club.  Tonight I speak at a club that the year we graduated would not have entertained a membership application from my parents because they were Jewish.  Progress is being made!  
Finally, I want to thank the Committee for inviting me to speak tonight.  F. Scott Fitzgerald said in his notes to the novel, The Last Tycoon, “There are no second acts in America” and he was wrong.  Because tonight I have a chance for a second act.  Not a one among you is likely to remember that 50 years ago, I had the honor of standing in front of you, your friends and family, and boring the hell out of you with a valedictorian address notable for its irrelevance.  You’ll recall that 1963 was a very special time, almost exactly halfway between the time when the world faced nuclear incineration during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of JFK.  It was also the year when American casualties in Viet Nam exceeded 100 for the first time.  Black children were being killed when churches were bombed in Birmingham and the Peace Corps was sending its first young volunteers overseas.  A man would walk on the Moon before the decade was over.  Within a few short years some of us were smoking dope, burning our draft cards or bras, and being gassed on the streets of Chicago at the 1968 convention.  Other members of our class were walking through the jungles of South Vietnam carrying a rifle or flying over them in Air Force jets serving their nation in the military
So what did I choose to speak about on that warm June night in front of all of you---The Value of a Liberal Education!  Talk about clueless.  As Homer Simpson would have said had he been invented by then:  Duh!    While I was muttering on about how the classics could save our souls, the world was changing outside that field house.  The profound nature of those changes, the rapidity with which they would occur, and the impact on our lives in college and beyond, would have been a fine topic for remarks that graduation night---but it was an opportunity lost.  
But not tonight. Though the world continues to be broken with war in Afghanistan, terrorism in Nairobi, nuclear weapons in N. Korea and Iran, and chemical weapons in Syria, I’d like to take this second chance and address perhaps the central question of this year and of our times----How the Hell Did we Get to be so Old!!!!  
When did we exchange hot dates for hot flashes, or no flashes at all?  
When did we move from prepping for the SAT’s to prepping for a colonoscopy?  
When did we exchange condoms for condominiums?  
We used to attribute blurred vision to a sixpack of Bud; now it’s a cataract.  
We used to think that MRI was a good safety school, but now it’s MRI, CT, PET, EKG, EEG, and the rest of the alphabet soup of medical testing.  
We used to think that Viagra was a small town in downstate Illinois which had a chance to win the Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament; now we know it as a life saving drug.  
And when did that Cialis ad that says ‘when the time is right’ make most of us think that they’re referring to the right time to take a nap?  
Despite my liberal education, I don’t have the answers to the critical question of how we got so old, so perhaps the best ‘second act’ for my speaking career at OPRFHS is to simply thank you all for being here, for being alive and for caring enough about our shared past to show up tonight.  In the words of a favorite song writer, Cheryl Wheeler, “Are you more amazed by how things changed or how they’ve stayed the same.”  Our Class of 1963 hasn’t saved the world or even changed it in fundamental ways, but at least we haven’t destroyed it and by keeping it turning, we’ve ensured that the most important change—the next generations represented by our now adult children and our young grandchildren---will have the opportunity to make it a better place.
Let’s take a look at where we were and where we are today.
(All the "Now" pictures are ones which were posted on this site by the classmate.)  
The final presentation was a surprise musical trip down memory lane:  a reprise by Phil Mathews, John Howie and Sue Roach of their Peter Paul & Mary act from our Senior Follies, singing (and being sung along with by the audience):  The Hammer Song, Puff the Magic Dragon, and This Land Is Your Land.  They brought down the house.