The applause has died down for our new crop of high school and college graduates. As they figure out where to hang a diploma, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a to-do list for them. Family and teachers got them to “Pomp and Circumstance.” The rest of us contributed when we paid taxes. So, we feel free to ask a few things in return. Here you go grads; put these goals in your digital tablet. Horizons are wide open in the future for engineers and architects who can build sustainable communities. This won’t just be about laying out streets in a subdivision. The country and the town must be integrated, and nature’s processes must be taken into account.
Big strides have been made in community planning in recent decades.
For example, rare is the building permit that’s issued for a flood plain. Elected officials and professional municipal staff planners are leaning toward keeping streamways natural and open. This provides green space for trails and parks, but we can do more.
We’re pretty good at building concrete storm sewers and moving storm water off streets and yards into those systems. Our farm fields are terraced to reduce soil erosion but also underlain with drain tile that keeps soils drained so plants can grow better in rainy seasons.
In both the town and on the farm, however, we’re shooting water into streams and major rivers at a far faster rate than what existed before. Someone downstream pays a price with flooding or stream channel damage.
We need in the future systems that help hold storm water, provide ground water recharge and have a pleasing natural appearance. This needs to happen in home and business construction but also in big municipal systems.
I don’t know why Mosby in Clay County flooded so severely in a big rain on May 16 and 17, but I doubt if modern changes to suburban and farm hydrology helped anything.
Attention philosophers and humanists, we have plenty of need now and in the future for counselors, theologians and social service workers.
Real life is far more complicated than a computer game that can be played on your cell phone. People must be able to stand face to face and side by side.
We know more about human psychology, history and faith than at any time in mankind’s ascent. Yet, we still struggle with relationships that build happy families. Racial divides persist. Religion that should help people work together instead often creates destructive divides. We need young people to continue making advances in how people get along within families and communities.
Some grads are eying business and economics. That’s where the big money is. Good for you.
But we need economists and corporate managers willing to invest in long-term economic health, not just quick profit taking. A balance is to be found and many weather entrepreneurs have found this balance in the past.
Idealism and economics need not be separated.
Here is a major need — politics.
We need talented, honest, hard-working young people to enter politics. Public service is tainted in these times by smear-stained election campaigns. Modern media makes useful information available, but a deluge of rhetoric and hype makes it difficult for voters to make choices.
Voters are weary from campaigns.
But young people, you can do better. Much good government occurs because citizens turned office holders listen to people in the careers I’ve listed earlier. They make choices that benefit the whole, not just a few.
Yes, government service is roily right now, but many office holders provide good service. You can be one.
Congrats grads; I hope you enjoy your accomplishments.
But get ready to work whether it is preparing for a career or starting one. Despite all human progress, there’s a lot that needs doing, and we need your help.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.