Betsy Minton Remarks

Remarks by Betsy Minton Burton at the U of U Saturday Dinner

June 28, 2014

        When we left Olympus we skyrocketed out of that universe and into another, whether into work or war or marriage or college or the world at large. The one thing we had in common back then was the fact of our leaving—leaving high school, in many cases leaving home, and in most cases leaving each other. Our focus was on the future, not the past. As yet unaware of the war that would soon loom over our world, our primary emotion was elation. Oh, we were all a little nervous about what would come next, but still, we were glad high school was behind us, sure we could now go anywhere, do anything, in the way of know-it-all teenagers who as yet have no idea just how much they don’t know.

        We did maintain some friendships over the years that followed, especially the close ones. But even many of those bonds loosened over time as we dove into careers or travel, families or new relationships, going wherever duty took us whether into jobs or college, battle or service, politics, professions, marriages. We were pulled this way and that, by our ambitions, by our creative impulses or our destructive ones, by our fears our disappointments, our loves, our losses, the illnesses some suffered, the dangers some faced, the new lives we were in the process of creating.

        Many might say at this point in time that although it’s been a long path, it’s been worth every step. Others that they’ve been eaten alive by life. One way or another, consumed we all were during those years—by the pressing needs of that present. Now as we begin to step back, not necessarily retiring or even slowing down, but stopping to consider the sunset or our grandchildren or those coming up behind us in our businesses, our focus is changing again, shifting backward. It’s a common trait of our age, which I refuse to call old age, this assessing, contemplative, backward looking behavior which some call wisdom, some stodginess.  

        The fact is that time, instead of dragging as it did in our school desks during 4th period, has speeded up, and the view to back there seems shorter, the years in between a blur. Our memories of school are suddenly in sharper focus, images from the past blooming in clusters—on our website and in our minds. Forgotten faces reappear and scenes spring to vivid life: sitting on the lawn in front of the school with brown lunch bags, my mom’s peanut butter & jelly  sandwiches; Richard Conta rescuing my 5’8” self from the wall of shame in the gym at Oakwood during a school dance; Brent Coon riffing on his guitar or riffling through debate cards on the stage at Olympus while Dale Lambert and I waited our turn; Danny Fehr’s wide smile as we sat smoking in the school parking lot, ducking when Mr. Heywood passed by, proving some point that only people that age need to prove; Jean Stockman (McGean) buying books at lightning speed at Sam Weller’s, years later…

        So many of the people embedded in our days, in our lives during our years at school, people whose faces we’re about to see pass by on screen, are gone now, whether from car wrecks or cancer, war or MS or AIDs. People who ranged the world, people who stayed at home, people who ran businesses and ran rivers, people who played or wrote or taught music, painted, whether houses or on canvas; people who built whether homes or ski lodges or boats or hand-crafted furniture, people who led tours or drove cabs, served overseas and at home, who bought books or sold records, or raised children or taught children, or volunteered to help children with special needs ….Their talents were many, their contributions amazing. Some created beauty, some served their community or their country, some built families, many helped others. All contributed to the world in ways we can acknowledge and in ways we’ll never know.  Many suffered in ways we’ll never know. We’re proud to be here together tonight, celebrating their contributions, joining in their sorrows, feeling the sorrows of their families, bringing their lives back into focus.

        Imagine for a moment that lawn in front of the old Olympus we remember, sitting in groups, talking about what trouble we’d get in that weekend; filing, stunned, into the auditorium the day Kennedy was killed. Cheering in the bleachers at a game. Watching a debate or a school play.  Fascinated by a new view of history thanks to Larry Malmgren. Bemused in biology until a fly buzzed around the room capturing our lagging attention.

        Reimagine that world now, knowing what we didn’t realize back then as we hurtled forth into our new world with scarcely a backward glance, relief at finishing high school our primary emotion—that we had forged a community all those years ago. A community that still exists, as it turns out, and that we’re all still a part of.  Whether actually present or here only in those surprisingly indelible memories we all share, those faces and scenes we’re about to watch on film, we’ve all met again here tonight. And it’s good to be together again.