On Saturday, 83 young men and women graduated from Hebron Academy, participating in a time-honored commencement ceremony at the rural campus.
Class President Taylor Leech delivered an uplifting and funny graduation address, encouraging her peers to smile through their lives, make laughter a habit and work hard to cheer people around them every day. Good advice.
Fellow student Alaia Singh also talked, presenting a heartfelt salutation to the school’s 213th class. Like Leech, she wore what is traditional graduation attire for females there: a simple white dress.
At Hebron, male graduates wear slacks, sport coats and ties. The girls wear white. There are no caps or gowns.
We posted Singh’s image, along with our coverage of the graduation, on the Sun Journal’s Facebook page Sunday afternoon. Can you guess what the first comment on the post was?
It wasn’t congratulatory.
Instead, it was an ugly slam against Singh, critical of her choice of summer dress and critical of the lack of graduation gowns.
That bit of ugliness was offered up by an adult woman, whose post degraded the young graduate based solely on her clothing.
Singh’s message to her peers was one of celebration.
The message to Singh was one of aggression.
It was unacceptable and hurtful, and we took the post down.
The random and unnecessary nature of that FB comment, along with conversations about bullying in Lewiston last week, prompts a change on our opinion pages and social media.
Over the past year, the tone of letters submitted for publication to the Sun Journal has devolved into a contest of name-calling, political baiting and toxic barbs.
In the most extreme cases we have asked writers to rephrase letters, but have let lesser attacks through, giving readers great leeway to express themselves. That leeway has emboldened sharper insults, with the written conversation becoming ever more coarse.
Starting today, that will stop.
Published letters will be civil. And posts to our website and Facebook page lacking civility will be taken down when we become aware of them. Feel free to argue, debate and discuss. But keep the abuse out.
It is possible to express oneself without bringing someone else down. To phrase an argument without disrespecting another. To make a point without being offensive.
As we heard over and over again in Lewiston last week, if we are to expect children to respect one another, adults have to be better examples.
Let’s lead the return to basic courtesy through reasoned argument, not gratuitous insults. Now.