To the Class of 2011

With the closing of this month we enter a very special time of the year, the weather is warm and the academic term has finally drawn to a close.

Students far and wide now heave a collective sigh of relief while their parents steel themselves for a long Summer, and yet another graduating class prepares for the first day of the rest of their lives.

As is often the case, graduation ceremonies cause me to reflect upon my own matriculation and how far I have come in the many years since my high school days.

While covering a local event at an area school a few days ago, I asked one of the young men how he felt about moving on to the “real world” of self-sufficiency.

“I’m going to college,” he responded, in a deadpan tone of voice. “I’m delaying the ‘real world’ for as long as possible.

Well played, young fellow.

But as the “pomp and circumstance” of the coming graduation ceremonies starts to begin, I cannot help but wonder what I would tell the younger and stupider version of myself whose last day of high school was more than a decade ago.

The first thing I would probably have to tell him (me) is to wipe that cocky grin off of his (my) face. That, for as much as he thinks he’s got it all figured out, he really doesn’t even know the first thing about how the world works.

Now that I’ve got his attention (and hopefully yours as well) there’s still more I’d like to share.

You young people are coming of age in an extraordinary time, a time filled with wonders you cannot fully appreciate. The world you live in is exponentially faster and smaller than the one in which you were born.

Most of you have never known a time when the Internet wasn’t ubiquitous, easily accessible at the click of a mouse, and you’ve probably been using cell phones since childhood. Texting has been second-nature for you since puberty.

But I would caution you that the speed with which you are communicating does not nullify the importance of personal relationships in the real world. Right now you probably don’t understand how this would be difficult, but you will… especially when you realize that you and your best friends don’t spend 8 hours a day in the same building anymore.

In an era where our technology has granted us a disproportionate amount of leisure, I would further encourage to redeem the time you have. The best time to develop a healthy attitude with media and personal technology is while you’re young and unattached.

Movies are great, video games are fun, but both are best enjoyed in moderation and between more constructive endeavors. Nothing’s more pathetic than a guy who just sits in a room watching television or playing games all the time. It is a waste. Your life is too valuable to spend it on an endeavor that contributes nothing and profits even less.

You owe it to yourself, yes, and to your loved ones, also yes, but even more you owe it to your Creator. Within every one of us exists the potential for greatness. Of the many members of this class whom I know, I know this to be this case.

Do important things. Volunteer. Get involved. Try things that are difficult for you. Push yourself to excel. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and not enough people willing to help. Your youthful energy can be a tremendous asset, use it wisely.

Pay attention to what’s happening around you, and stay abreast of what is happening throughout the world. Then, act accordingly. Don’t fall into the cliché of the uninformed youngster, oblivious to the depth and nuance of the big issues facing our world.

Every decision you make will both open and close doors to you. But don’t worry, many missed opportunities are missed because the timing isn’t right. Relax, there’s a logic at work.

Like every other generation that has worn the robes and mortarboard caps, you have much more than those who came before you.

You have an awareness of matters and issues my generation never did, and might still not. You have to clean up messes you had no part in, and pay for debts incurred long before you were born.

Every day is the first day of the rest your life except for one, the day you die. So don’t wait another minute to start. Now is your time, today is your day.

I wish you well.


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