Chapters 118-120 Summary
Take Your Seats, Everyone
August and Jack go to the auditorium, where teachers direct them to join the other fifth graders. Sixth graders are a part of the same ceremony, but they go to a separate room to get ready.
While they wait for the ceremony to begin, Jack and August sword-fight with rolled-up programs. Summer comes to say hi, and she is wearing make-up. August compliments her, but Jack only says she looks “okay.” This makes August suspect that Jack is developing a crush on Summer.
A Simple Thing
The auditorium is huge, and August is amazed at the number of people in the audience. He sits through the long introduction by the headmaster, and then Mr. Tushman gets up to speak.
In his address, Mr. Tushman comments that he always tries to cut down on the work of speechwriting by reusing material from different grades or years. However, he is never able to do this. He says it is because the particular age of middle schoolers demands original attention. His students exist “at the edge between childhood and everything that comes after,” and he feels compelled to honor that.
Today, Mr. Tushman congratulates his students on making it through a school year, growing and changing and learning on the way. He adds that he is especially impressed by the growth he has seen in them emotionally. He reads a quote from J. M. Barrie: “Shall we make a new rule of life…always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?”
Mr. Tushman says that he loves this quote because it makes him think about kindness as a choice. He reads another quote that touches on this idea, and he says that he wants the kids in his school to know how valuable kindness can be. He asks them to pursue their dreams and goals, but also to choose to be “kinder than is necessary” as often as possible. If they do this one thing, they will each help to create a better world.
An awards ceremony comes at the end of the graduation program. August stands up with all of the kids who made the high honor roll. Two girls, Charlotte and Ximena, get the biggest academic prizes. Amos gets a sports award, which makes August happy. Summer wins the award for creative writing, which makes August even happier.
After the creative writing award, Mr. Tushman announces the Henry Ward Beecher medal, which always goes to a “notable or exemplary” student. August guesses that Charlotte will get this one, and he stops listening as Mr. Tushman drones on about the award winner's "quiet strength" and his ability to change others for the better. At the end of this speech, to August's surprise, Mr. Tushman announces that the award will go to August Pullman.