Once again I find myself apologizing for not being able to post. Circumstances that are beyond my control have conspired to make it difficult to post recently. First, my computer had decided that it is ready to retire to Boca. Second, I have been ill with what feels like a biblical plague, but is probably just a strong cold, or even a couple of different colds.
There was a third reason as well. Around this time each year, I give an address to graduating students. Generally, I try to keep the tone upbeat. After all, this is the greatest time of some people’s lives. I try to pass out platitudes and truths in equal portions, passing on some ideas for young people to do before their lives limit opportunities. This year is a little different because the world is a decidedly scarier place than I have ever seen it.
This year, we have seen hatred, bigotry, and ignorance trump personal opinions and beliefs in the case of (former) Miss California Carrie Prejean. Just yesterday, the aforementioned ignorant bigots finally won by having Miss California lose her crown for having personal beliefs. Perez Hilton must be giggling into his Pinkberry.
This year, we have seen poor judgements and decisions rewarded by the government and prudent choices punished. The housing fiasco is still in full swing right now because certain people in the federal government lied, obfuscated facts, and abused the trust that we as Americans have given them. Not only were Chris Dodd and Barney Frank not run out on a rail, but they both still have a lot of influence over the economy.
This year, many Americans put personality before substance, and a good man is in a job that he is woefully underprepared for. The problem is, there are no do-overs. He bit off more than he can chew, and we get the bellyache.
This year, we have seen the results of cronyism, where almost one out of every ten Americans who are looking for work are unemployed, while a tax cheat runs the IRS.
This year we learned the concept of “too big to fail”. It sounds good until you realize that too big to fail also means too small to succeed for everybody else.
This year, because of many of the above mentioned choices, unborn children of unborn children will be paying for mistakes we adults have made.
So you can see, there is precious little that is encouraging to perk you up. But, since when does that matter? See, the good side is that you are going to be in charge at some point in the near future. You don’t have to make the same mistakes we are making today. You can do what my parents and their parents have tried to do. You can make the world a better place for your children than it was for you.
- Up till now, people in positions of authority have expected you to do as you were told without question or comment. When you get into your career, many will expect you to do so as well. Once in a while, when something doesn’t make sense, question somebody. Do so in a respectful manner, and listen to whatever justification you are given, but don’t go away without an answer that satisfies you, even if you disagree with it.
- Take a stand. Just like Miss Prejean took a stand (that the President, Vice-President, and the majority of Americans share), that ultimately cost her a job, you need to find something that you are so passionate about that you would give up everything else in your life for. Don’t waste that kind of comittment on something that is not worthy.
- Be active. In your community, in your family, or somewhere else. Don’t blend into the walls, but stand out (in a positive way) and make people take notice.
- Don’t let them see you coming. Do something out of character when the opportunity presents itself. I’m not saying do the wrong thing, or the bad thing, but sometimes you just have to do something different.
- Read a book that you had to read in school, but this time read it just to enjoy it. Some of those books were pretty good if they weren’t screwed up by having you try to find all of the plot devices.
- Drive a really powerful, “cool” car once. With many of the laws that are coming out, you might not be able to later.
- Play like a kid once in a while. Run like you’ve never run before.
- Make your own list of Qualities of Success and start following them. This list can be a work in progress. When things work, keep them, but if they don’t– dump them.
- Learn to cook one dish from scratch really well. As you start your life on your own the temptation will be there to eat “convenience food”. Sometimes, this is okay. But if you can cook one dish really well, you can always treat yourself, or impress someone you might want to impress.
- Don’t focus on the first part of this post. While all of it is true, right now there is little you can do about it. Enjoy this time because it might be the best time of your life. You only graduate once or twice in your life. This first one is the most important one because this is also the start of your adult life.