A Salute to Our Youth

By Roderick Kelly

Co-founder, K+L Storytellers

One hundred seven young men donned identical tuxedos. Their dates wore beautiful white debutante gowns with matching gloves that extended beyond the elbow. These young adults were experiencing their first “grown up” event where they were treated as equals. The setting was the Drury Lane Oak Brook ballroom, bulging with more than 800 attendees. The event was Marmion Academy’s “Salute to Youth” gala.

It sounds like a cliché, but these are our future trailblazers.

For the first hour of mingling and eating of appetizers, many of the seniors approached me with their right hand outstretched, a smile on their face and a “hello Mr. Kelly” on their lips. They introduced their dates and we engaged in small talk. I saw our son doing the same with other parents.

I have known these young men for four years, some of them longer. I’ve watched them grow from boys to men.

And the tone was set for the rest of the evening. The speeches were predictably genuine and heartfelt, and with each, the students could get a glimpse into their future – as independent-thinking adults, as future parents and as groundbreakers.

And then the spotlight shone on them. The 107 senior students and their dates beamed with nervous pride as each couple walked up on stage for their introductions. Each man graciously deferred to his date as she curtsied to the attendees. Each smiled and visibly exhaled as they left the stage, arm in arm.

“Salute to Youth” is their reward for four years of hard work. It’s their swansong before graduation.

Regardless of the path each takes, I know their future is bright, and they will make this world better. In fact, they already have.

Salute to our youth.

Our son Peter and his date Sophie.

Our son Peter and his date Sophie.