It is our hope, however, that this is not the last, but the first milestone in their lives. We hope it is the first steps down academic paths that will bring them future successes, or the first strides toward other brighter and even more promising goals than those accomplished with the turning of tassels and the acceptance of diplomas.
Today’s editorial is for the graduates, a group of young men and women we have watched grow and mature; written about as they have achieved academic and athletic successes; young men and women who are preparing to make their mark on society; people who must now be set free into a world we hope they are ready to tackle.
As you prepare for the pomp and circumstance of graduation, stop and think about its true meaning. For, you see, we all graduate; the question is from what?
Graduation is more than just one evening, a black gown and mortar board, a turned tassel and a new diploma. While all those are important parts of the accomplishment you have made, those things by themselves ring hollow, like an empty barrel, if there isn’t any substance that you can carry with you beyond the ceremony and into the future.
So what is it you are graduating from?
Are you graduating from adolescent behavior? Have you reached a point in your lives where all-night parties, childish pranks and a desire to break the law just for the fun of it has subsided? Have you decided listening is often better than hearing yourself speak, and making informed, solid choices is better than fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants decisions that are often reminiscent of early teenage years?
All of these are questions you should ask yourselves as you prepare for graduation.
And there are more.
Have you graduated from prejudice, not just racial but social and economic prejudice as well? Do you look beyond the past, the color of someone’s skin or the money in a bank account to see the individual? Does character really matter?
Have you graduated from an apathetic attitude?
We challenge you to consider what it is you are really graduating from, to closely scrutinize your life so far and then put into perspective where you want your life to go, determining just what you must graduate from to make your life the one you want to live, the one in which you can be proud.
And, we challenge you to be yourselves, never forgetting where you came from or how you got where you are, and always remembering that class beats out style every single time.
For some reason people think they have to be like the crowd, while at the same time shouting about their individualism. But it’s important to understand that you don’t have to dye your hair three different colors, pierce your body, walk the walk or talk the talk that your friends do to make an impression or to be different.
You don’t have to drink because they do, try out the latest drugs because they do, or experiment with sex just because they do.
That’s not being an individual; that’s being one of the crowd, following others just for the sake of following something.
But you see, it is far more important to just be yourself, going with your gut feeling rather than the crowd’s desires. Sure the pressures are there, but you can rise above them, soaring like an eagle rather than flocking with the birds.
As graduates prepare for the next phase of their lives, we urge them to think about what it is they are or have graduated from, what they’ve already graduated from and what they will still need to graduate from as they look to the future.
Each one owes it to themselves to do just that.