Around this time of year, students across the country don a cap and gown to participate in a common event—graduation. In 1954, only two months after a shooting on the House Floor, the House hosted the Capitol Page School’s commencement exercises. Although this graduation resembled its counterparts across the country, the ceremony included a noteworthy stand-in speaker.
The House recorded the proceedings on four lacquer discs. This four-disc set is the only recording of a Capitol Page School commencement in the Collection of the House of Representatives. The discs have recently been digitized, and were listened to for the first time since they entered the collection. You can learn more about the ceremony and listen to clips below.
Herbert Brownell Jr., the Attorney General of the United States, was scheduled to deliver remarks. This in itself was not unusual. As a consequence of their close proximity to the federal government, graduates of the Capitol Page School heard commencement addresses from prominent political figures.
Listen to Principal Ruth H. McRae’s welcome:Paul Kanjorski, later recalled that “we drafted someone in the audience to speak until he got there.” The graduates looked up to see none other than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren standing at the lectern.
Listen to Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren step in:
Listen to Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. apologize for being late:
Sources: “Dorsey Joseph (Joe) Bartlett Oral History Interview,” Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives 12 July 2006; “Page School Graduation Ceremony Record,” transcripts of speeches delivered at Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC, June 14, 1954; History, Art & Archives, United States House of Representatives, History of the House Page Program.Follow @USHouseHistory