At The Grauer School's annual event celebrating the grandparents and grandfriends of our students and families, Dr. Grauer asked them to share their stories and wisdom with their grandchildren. The best education comes from passing our heritage along to younger generations.
Founders Day Celebration of Our Elders and Grandparents
This speech was presented by Dr. Grauer at the Founder's Day and Grandfriends Celebration event on November 18, 2022, a special day honoring grandparents and grandfriends of our students and their families. This is the fourth installment of Dr. Grauer's columns honoring Native American month and The Grauer School’s appreciation of the wisdom of the first people of this area.
Welcome to the Founders Day Celebration of our Elders and Grandparents at The Grauer School, a day of giving thanks. After those last three years, I can’t tell you how happy I am to host this event back here on the most beautiful small school campus in the world.
Welcome Elders. This day is our way of saying: You matter. You have born losses. You have made incredible advances we now take for granted. You have endured. You have sacrificed so we can be here. You matter.
Historically, Founders Day is the day of the school year when the single greatest concentration of wisdom gathers together on our campus, our elders. This year, I have a story. De Portola, the appointed governor of Baja, Mexico, led the first expedition up the California coast. He started north of Loreto, 750 miles south of here in Baja and nowadays a way station for our surf trips. The year: 1769. Marching north, he crossed the Tijuana River. Then he went on to San Diego and into the native Kumeyaay Indian lands, the land that we now call the “gold coast” and that extends from that river up to the San Luis River/lagoon in Oceanside.
The Portola expedition, including the famous Father Junipero Serra, travelled with a wagon containing sacks of wild mustard seeds. They spread these seeds behind them as they travelled north in the winter, marking a trail for their return in the spring by a blooming golden trail named "El Camino Real". Today, along this golden trail, just north of the San Diego Mission, lies The Grauer School.
Today, 253 years later, 401 years after the first Thanksgiving celebrated with indigenous (Native) Americans, we gather. Just outside our Tolerance Gateway is the royal road they laid. Up above us, on this quad, is a bell tower with a replica of an original mission bell from along the trail.
Things have sped up since those days. The human mind today wants to go fast. Nature goes slow. When we lose sight of traditional wisdom, or fail to honor elder patience and kindness, we lose our compass.
Up north in Mammoth Mountain, the ski season has just started. Here on campus in Southern California, the seasons are subtle. There is a slight golden tinge to things and frost could come some morning. This time of year, we treasure our roots and the founding purpose of our school, which sounds like a good rule for Thanksgiving: to listen better.
This season, let’s do some great listening. Grandparents and elders, at last you have your student here at this event with no cellphone or distraction. The great regret so many among us have is that we did not ask our elders enough about their earlier lives. Let’s make up for that. As you gather, please tell your student or grandchild:
What were your school and teachers like?
What are some of the highlights that stand out from your time in high school?
Grandparents and elders, you are the mustard seed! You laid the trails. Sharing your stories with those coming of age, is the best education we know. Pass the heritage along. Our students will remember your stories forever.
We come from all over the map, yet, we all share the same understanding of education, which is the basic belief in the goodness of our children. A grandparent found our school its first site and purchased our first computer lab. A grandmother willed her estate to buy our campus. Grandparents today cover tuitions, scholarships, and endowments. You drop off and pick up. You tutor our students. You make our school a place of optimism.
We treasure the wisdom of elders here in this season more than ever. Thank you for helping us celebrate intergenerational relationships that mean the world to us. Thank you for your love and patience for the young, and for celebrating with us as we bring in this season.
PS: Ask An Elder
So many of us know little of the lives of our parents and elders, despite the fact that they lived through interesting decades. Even people majoring in history are often in the dark about their own family history. Thanksgiving is 402 years old, and whole ways of life are passing away unknown, like a social amnesia. When you talk to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and elder family friends this season, ask some of these questions to learn more about them:
What do you remember about your early life?
How were you raised?
What did your childhood windows look out onto?
What did you hear when you woke up in the morning?
What were family dinners were like?
Who were your friends? Do you have a lost love?
How did you family come to America, and why did they come here?
You can search the Internet for “funny questions to ask old people.” Try that!
The most important questions can also be the most plain:
What was your first job?
Do you know the history of your family name?
Were you named after anyone?
What do you remember about your parents and grandparents?
What was ordinary for your grandparents is not what’s ordinary for you. Ask them:
In what ways do you think I'm like you? ·
How did you meet your spouse?
Who is the person who influenced your life the most? ·
And best of all, the question your elders might love the most:
What do you wish people knew about you?
COMMENT! Click on the "Comments" drop-down box below to share a comment about this column.