The Ceremony of Twelve starts with an introduction explaining how it is different than most community functions because it acknowledges differences.
Sameness is incredibly important to Jonas’s community. Every aspect of their society is designed to get everyone to think and act the same. The people are even genetically designed to look the same. They have the same skin, eye, and hair color for the most part.
Everyone in the community progresses in age at the same rate. All children born in a year “age” on the same day. They are not born on the same day, but they share a common birthday in December. The ceremonies in December advance them socially into the next age group. Each ceremony involves a gift of some kind, anything from a name to a bicycle or a haircut.
Even in a community like this, people have to have different roles. The community closely watches children as they near the age of twelve to determine their personality traits, their intelligence, and their predispositions to certain occupations.
The ceremony begins with a speech given by the Chief Elder.
The speech was much the same each year: recollection of the time of childhood and the period of preparation, the coming responsibilities of adult life, the profound importance of Assignment, the seriousness of training to come. (Ch. 7)
The Chief Elder points out that this is the one time a year when differences are acknowledged. This is because each person is called out and their history described, and then their assignment is announced.
Before the individual speeches are given, the Chief Elder describes the group as a whole, pointing out its makeup by singling out personalities without naming the people yet.
She began to describe this year's group and its variety of personalities, though she singled no one out by name. She mentioned that there was one who had singular skills at caretaking, another who loved newchildren, one with unusual scientific aptitude, and a fourth for whom physical labor was an obvious pleasure. (Ch. 7)
The Chief Elder describes each child one by one and then gives the person the assignment. She ends each individual speech by thanking the new Twelve for his or her childhood. Jonas’s parents tell him that most people do not find their assignment a surprise, but Jonas has no specific skills that make him stand out, or so he thinks, so he does not know what his will be.