Hold Your Applause, Please

"Hold Your Applause, Please" by Kelly Guest (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2017 Kelly Guest. All rights reserved.

Graduation is a time of great joy, pride, and relief for many parents as well as students. Getting through 13 or more years of school is a great accomplishment for anyone. Having three that have graduated from high school and one from college, I have felt that pride and joy.

I have also followed the rule. You know, the one about holding your applause to the end.

At every graduation I have ever gone to, this announcement has been made, usually both in writing in the program and verbally before the handing out of diplomas. Never, at any graduation that I have ever attended, have these wishes been granted by everyone in attendance.

Perhaps it is because for some students, getting through school was not an easy task. Parents had to motivate their child to complete their education and had to constantly stay on them. Moreover, parents whose children have learning disabilities often go through much, including frequently attending IEP meetings, helping every night with homework, advocating always for their child, just to make it to this special day. These parents have the right to celebrate.

There are also students who are self-motivated and who worked hard in class, with extra-curricular activities, and at part-time jobs. Their successes ought to be celebrated and hard-work recognized, too.

So part of me understands the overflowing of jubilation and gratification. Sometimes, I cannot help but smile when I hear the cheers. Similarly, I have been moved to tears when a student with special needs receives his/her diploma amid the exultant shouts of classmates.

Still, I have mixed emotions about parents who blatantly disobey the request to hold their applause by hooting, hollering and whistling when their student crosses the stage.

I guess my question is what do we want from our children’s graduation ceremonies – a dignified event or a hoot-and-holler celebration? No doubt there ought to be time to rejoice in whatever manner we as parents deem appropriate. I am just not sure the graduation ceremony is that time.

The reason given for the rule is often two-fold: 1) so every parent has the opportunity to hear his/her child’s name announced, and 2) so that the ceremony may progress along in a timely manner. Thus, I believe the rule is a fair one and ought to be followed.

However, if a parent decides that the reason for their outburst is greater than the reason for the rule, and therefore, breaks the rule, how can we expect our children to follow rules? Let’s be honest, there will always be rules we will have to follow – rules of the house, rules at college or work, societal rules and laws, and most importantly, God’s commandments. And to be honest, we human beings can always find an excuse not to follow a rule, law, even Commandment.

This isn’t to say that we want to raise robots who always go along with whatever they are told to do. We all need to use our God-given intellect to think. Some rules or laws should not be followed because they are unjust. In this case, however, the request to hold all applause until the end is for just reasons.

Lastly, while it is right and just to reward our children for their perseverance, diligence, and the use of their talents, we ought to also instill in them the attitude of humility. After all, it was Jesus who reminded us that “when you have done everything you were told to do, (you) should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty'” (Luke 17:10). s

What do you think? Hold your applause? Change the rule so parents can clap and cheer our graduates on? Or ignore the rule and show our pride however we want? What’s your opinion?

Copyright 2017 Kelly Guest


About Author

God has given Kelly lots of wonderful opportunities to follow Him. She was a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia in Nashville, an education coordinator for a Catholic Charities' program for pregnant teens, a middle school teacher, a director of religious education and is now a youth minister. Her most challenging and rewarding calling, though, is wife and mother of ten children. What she has learned, she blogs at CatholicMom.com.


  1. St.Rita'sFriend on

    Our youngest just graduated from high school and for the first time I really understand both sides of this question. He went from a happy go lucky, straight A honors student for 3 and a half years to a just holding on student by graduation day. The reason was not “senioritis,” but an awful, out of nowhere case of clinical depression, for which he is still being treated and with which he still struggles (please pray for him if you are reading this). I begged God daily to please, please give this child the will and the energy to get up in the morning and get dressed and get through the day, and while I didn’t stand up and cheer at graduation, I wanted to. In retrospect, I wish I had.

  2. ruth doxzen on

    When some families ignore the rules, what that says to me is, “We think our child is more important than yours, and therefore deserves the applause yours doesn’t”. When students clap, it is a popularity contest, and makes the kids who aren’t so popular embarrassed. And the hooping and hollering is something that in my opinion is appropriate for a basketball game, a soccer game, not a graduation ceremony, nor a dance recital, nor any of the arts. It makes people look low class and crass.

    • Kelly Guest on

      Ruth, I think you have great points. I am not a fan of the hooting and hollering. A short, polite applause after each name may work, if people would follow the rules.

  3. Tina Cunningham on

    Great article once again Kelly! I am not a hold your applause kind of girl. When my child’s name is called for an award at his school I am hootin and hollin. Not to the point where it delays the ceremony, but my kid knows we are there and ultra proud of his accomplishments. I think in that moment their name is called they are nervous and to hear a familiar voice gives them a boost of confidence to walk across that stage and receive that award or diploma because they accomplished the task and being rewarded for their hard work. It is only out of love that we parents show them we are their biggest cheerleaders!

  4. Erin Bartholomy on

    I think they should change the rule and everyone in attendance should clap for every student, and the families can decide how boisterous they want to be for their individual graduate. I went to a graduation this weekend and there was no “hold your applause” request. My 13 year old was sitting next to me in awe of the graduates and he clapped for every single one of them. He saved the most enthusiasm for his cousin, though. I thought it was very nice. There were over 100 gradates and so it took a long time, but that’s why we were there, right? To hear our graduate’s name and applaud him. And all of his classmates.

  5. Kelly Guest on

    I may very well agree with a rule change. However, the applause should be short so that the names can be heard and the ceremony continue in a timely fashion. My children’s high school was 300 grads – that would take a good long while!

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