The View from My Section – A Father’s Perspective – Advice for the Class of 2024

]To all those graduating students who began their latest educational journey in the fall of 2020, Congratulations, Class of 2024! The official last graduating class of the “Covid Era.” Despite Covid being a continuous threat we must vaccinate and protect ourselves from in the future, it will be nice not to have to refer back to that very difficult period so often, as it relates to a graduate’s journey.

You’re embarking on one of the biggest milestones in your life, that point where you cross the threshold into true adulthood. You’re excited, relieved, stressed, nervous, confused and hopefully will be somewhat inspired about what comes next in your journey. You’ve finished your classes and last exams, taken your senior pictures in front of the notable landmarks on campus, planned your celebration activities and maybe even have a job offer already. You’re experiencing one of the all-time highs of life. You’ve achieved something that takes discipline, determination, perseverance, maturity and so much more. Know that your accomplishment is being celebrated by an entire team including your family, friends, faculty, staff and many others right behind you, as you alone, walk across the stage at commencement and receive your well-earned recognition. Enjoy this moment, as this is your time in the spotlight. Life doesn’t offer those moments very often.     

That’s the good news. Unfortunately, the bad news is we, the collective public, owe all you young people an apology. As you float on a cloud through the doorway to the next chapter, you won’t like what you see on the other side, at least not initially. We’ve evolved into a bit of chaos. Our system of government is facing challenges of historic proportions. Our planet is hurting, which doesn’t bode well for it or us. Not unlike other tumultuous times in history, unwarranted attacks that lead to all-out wars are happening on multiple fronts across the globe. And here, in our country, our state, our town and maybe even our family, divisions are occurring that challenge the strength and structure of our most sacred and cherished tradition – family. This is what we created while you were busy studying science, math, business, art and the humanities. Perhaps, you’ve read, heard and even written about some of it for your course assignments and projects. It’s different though when you are studying it, and then you begin actually living it. This is our bad; we messed it up, and no matter which side of the divide you’re on, it still feels like we’re continuing to do so. Well, now that I sufficiently bummed you out, let me give you, as the great Paul Harvey used to say, “… the rest of the story.”

The monumental psychological challenge you’re all facing is effectively outlined nicely in the following quote from a story about product development by “The normal human psychology for us is to exaggerate the wisdom of the choices that we make for ourselves and to question the wisdom of choices that are made for us by others…we will quickly question the wisdom of going down an avenue that someone else has selected for us when even the slightest obstacle emerges. This is due to a very basic principle of psychology. People prefer to feel good about themselves. Part of this preference includes viewing their own choices as superior to those of other people. This inherent bias that’s present in all cultures distorts our perception of reality.” 

Now that you understand some of the issues, in the words spoken to Mr. Phelps in Mission Impossible – Class of 2024, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” is to do your part in sifting through our wreckage and finding new approaches, paving new paths, developing new ideas and making a genuine commitment to repair the information and communication quagmire that we didn’t see coming. We haven’t lived like most of you with advanced technology all our lives, which makes you especially valuable to bridging this continental divide and establishing a sense of civility in our union once more. Where we can respectfully agree, disagree and, if necessary, agree to disagree. But, most of all, to create a society where we coexist peacefully, despite differences in politics, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation and everything else. 

I don’t pretend it’ll be easy. Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” The world is looking for us to return to our proper democratic ways, respect our collective beliefs and values, and restore their faith in us as the beacon of hope for mankind (and that’s not hyperbole).

“Great moments are born from great opportunity. You were meant to be here tonight; this is your time. Now go out there and take it!” (Miracle, 2004)  

Congratulations Class of 2024; may your glass always be half-full.

Video selection: Miracle Speech – You were born for this – Herb Brooks, Movie: Miracle.


Music selection (language): Lily Meola – Daydream

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