Some of you may remember from previous columns I've written that my mother passed away a couple days before my high school graduation. I relive a lot of those moments every time I hear pomp and circumstance.

But what always snaps me out of that fog are the pop culture references administrators and graduates sprinkle throughout their speeches. Older people stick with the classics while the younger folks usually paraphrase the hottest musician at the time.

For example, Mark Reed, head of school for Charlotte Country Day, read some lines from Ernest Hemingway while Valedictorian Lilah Peck blessed everyone with a Beyoncé mention. Cal Benson probably confused a lot of parents when he referenced rapper Quavo.

Ty Morgan, valedictorian of Carmel Christian, paraphrased Woodrow Wilson, while salutatorian Witt Miles worked in a Tim Tebow reference and a quote from singer-songwriter Ben Rector. But I think Senior Class President Andrew Riebe deserves a bonus for name-dropping Andy Bernard from “The Office.”

Providence Day Head of School Glyn Cowlishaw, who is the most hilarious speaker I've heard in education, paraphrased British “philosophers” without naming them: Winston Churchill and and The Beatles.

Not to be outdone, Charlotte Latin Head of School Chuck Baldecchi sang a line from David Bowie's “Space Oddity.”

Charlotte Christian Head of School Barry Giller probably referenced the most famous people. He mentioned Tom Brady, Nelson Mandela, country music star Alan Jackson and a few others. He even added a Harry Potter reference and unveiled a mystical wand. Now that's entertainment!

But the greatest graduation speech I ever heard was delivered in 2010 to thunderous applause by Mark Edwards, superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District. Edwards simply told graduates of Mooresville High School: "Congratulations, good luck and God bless you."

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