DEAR MISS MANNERS: At our high school, we recently lost a student who would have graduated in June. My students approached me, their class sponsor, for ideas on how best to mention the death of their classmate at their commencement.
They are quite uncomfortable, as the valedictorian, the salutatorian and the class president did not know the deceased well at all.
I told them that the president should mention the death directly, while the valedictorian and salutatorian should not, but that they should make a brief mention about struggling through loss (or something to that effect). Do you have other suggestions or words that they could use?
GENTLE READER: Have you considered having a student who did know the deceased offer a short eulogy?
In addition, Miss Manners agrees that the class president should make a formal statement in honor of the classmate and should express the class's grief. He or she will not be doing this as a personal statement, but on behalf of the class. Then the other speakers can make reference to the tragedy of loss -- again because they are speaking on behalf of the class, and some of their classmates will have a close personal connection, even if they don't.
As for feeling "uncomfortable" -- tell them that no one, close or far, ever likes this task, but respect requires that it be done.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)