Congratulations to the class of 2016!! I said my prayers all week long that the weather would hold out so that both schools could have their ceremonies outside as planned, and was very thankful that there was no rain. For WBHS graduates, what fun it will be to tell your kids you graduated by the light of hundreds of cell phones? That was pretty cool!
Forty years ago, the Class of 1976 had to change locations from the football field to the cafeteria. I remember that being such a disappointment. We were only allowed two admission tickets per student. No grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, boyfriends or girlfriends were allowed to attend. Not only that, it was the year of the bicentennial celebration, and, while I should have been a proud, patriotic student, I remember pouting a little bit that we had to wear white gowns, and our tassels were red, white, and blue. I had always loved the red and black color scheme of WBHS, and had long admired the red and black tassels hanging from rear-view mirrors of the cars of my older friends, and couldn’t wait to have my own car to display my red and black tassel. But, it was not to be. I still have that red, white, and blue tassel, tucked away for safekeeping, but I never did hang it from the rear-view mirror of my car.
So, class of 2016, what’s next? Some of you are headed to college. What a challenge that will be! Others may enter the work force right away. Perhaps a military career is ahead of you, and I thank you in advance for your service! Eighteen still seems an awful young age to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life, so don’t sweat it if you haven’t yet decided. Sometimes going to college right after high school is the right thing to do, while for others, it makes more sense to take a break, and go at a later time. You may feel pressured to pursue a career of your parents’ choosing, or feel the need to follow in the family footsteps of chosen careers. I’d never be the one to tell you to go against your parents’ wishes, especially if they are paying for your education, but keep an open mind. Perhaps when you do discover your life’s ambitions, they will be supportive, and it will be a win-win for everyone.
Whatever you do, make it count. Be a productive member of society, whether it’s working in a high-paying, prestigious career that requires you to wear a suit, a laborer on the construction site, the sanitation department, or someone who cleans bedpans at the convalescent home. All these jobs are important. Don’t believe me? If a high-falutin’ Wall Street office closes tomorrow, most of us will never feel the effects. Let the sanitation department close for two weeks, and we will all feel it. Every job is important. Do your best. Be careful not to look down on others who choose a less glamorous career than yours. Likewise, don’t be intimidated by those who wear fancy clothes and work in a corner office when your job is shoveling poop at the horse farm. Just do something. In today’s world it is far too easy to live off the system. In many cases, there is more incentive to stay in the system than to break out and be productive.
No matter where you live, no matter if you buy your clothes from high-end fashion boutiques or thrift stores, you are important. If your daddy drives a Mercedes, or if your daddy drives a beat-up truck with slick tires – that doesn’t have to direct your path in life. Of course, some will have more advantages and opportunities than others. If you’re dad’s bank account affords you an easy road to education, and friends in high places help you get a fancy job – then that’s fabulous. Don’t waste the opportunity. But be very careful not to take it for granted. If your dad’s bank account will hardy pay the bills at home, and you have fewer opportunities, then that’s okay too. Sometimes the harder we have to work for things, the more we appreciate them. If your home life is unstable and you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, then determine that you are going to be a force of change in your family, and you will make a difference.
Certainly, life is easier for some than for others. But let me be clear on this: No one person, regardless of ethnicity, economic status, or GPA is less valuable than another. All lives matter. Class of 2016, YOU MATTER. I love this saying: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
The tassels have been turned. Now: Go. Change the world!!