When I first graduated from college and later graduate school, I was somewhat melancholy, but very excited, because for the first time in eighteen years, I would no longer be a student. But because I had a license to teach and counsel high school students, I would still be in school, only now I was entitled to be on the other side of the desk. That was fun because finally, I got to call the shots and share my passion for literature and language with my students. There was just one small problem. I didn’t have a job.
Cut to the graduating Class of 2012. Many of these college graduates won’t have jobs either. Their chances of finding one in the career they prepared for are slim to none. Many of these hard-working, well-qualified and in debt ex-students will have to take whatever they could find until the “real job” comes along. They might be waiting a while, even waiting on tables, but it’s a sure bet they’ll be waiting.
So in this climate of poor job prospects, it might seem ironic that there is actually one job I would have a hard time saying “yes” to if it were offered to me. That job would be a college commencement speaker for the Class or 2012. Yikes!
Ordinarily, it is an honor to be asked to offer words of wisdom to newly minted adults who are about to go out into the real world where judgments about their performance will not be in the form of ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C-‘. But today, the challenge for that commencement speaker might be to offer hope. This could be a hard sell to bright students, especially when the world economic crises is impacting us here at home and our murderous enemies seem to rise like the phoenix out of chaos and destruction.
But if I was a commencement speaker for the Class of 2012, I would remind the graduates about the cycles of life and the certainty of change, in itself hope. I would talk about taking that ‘lower level’ job they didn’t go to college for, perhaps to be reminded how hard some people have to work just to make a minimum wage. I would refocus them on the value of a college education and, that is, not only to prepare for a ‘good job’ but to also develop in character and perspective.
In the end, hope is the only thing we can offer to others when things appear dismal. History bears this out. There were many years of prosperity after the Great Depression and many years of relative peace following both world wars. There is mourning and moving forward, heartbreak and happiness. Surviving is the stuff of real life whether or not a college education is in the equation.
Congratulations to the Class of 2012! Keep the faith today and you won’t lose hope for a better tomorrow.
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