This is a sending forth time of year for some of us, and gladly so, though not without concerns.
My daughter graduates from high school this coming Sunday. I am proud of her and preparing my house for a celebration the day preceding, although I’m surprised this time of life is here already. The month of May speeds by fast because the spring season is so sweet.
Having a graduate from high school or college in this month makes all time seem like rocket travel.
I am optimistic about young people. They’ve absorbed so much of the world very quickly via cell phones, computers and television, yet so many of them seem to handle the craziness in a fast-paced world very well, but you know how parents are. We worry about our children and the world they’re going forth into.
Perhaps we should hold our optimism regardless.
My grandparents worried about their children graduating with the Great Depression still not fully rescinded and with World War II brewing. And many of the social and racial issues raging today were a source of division then, too, until the war brought distraction and greater unity for a time.
My generation’s parents pondered their kids going forth with the Vietnam War ongoing and the nation divided about the war’s purpose, deeply so.
Young people who grew up admiring Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were now following the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and a host of cultural icons that were creating permanent new stamps on America. And there was a deep unsettledness about this.
Divisions began then that still run deep today, maybe more than ever.
When our young people look to national and state political leadership, they see dysfunction, hypocrisy and debates about alternative facts or truth in science. The last few decades brought terrorism, another depression and economic pendulum swings. We all face the fact that the right terrorist or cyber attack could pummel an economy.
But the young people I know or meet remain optimistic. Youth has the benefit of unbridled enthusiasm. They may see paths forward that us older folks with set ways cannot detect.
High school or college in large part is to prepare young people to work to earn a living. Parents don’t rest easy about this challenge for their kids. The lower and middle classes do not have the economic breathing room that generations enjoyed from World War II into the 1980s.
When mine and previous generations set forth in the adult world, medical costs for simple procedures were not economically hazardous. If you had no interest in college, you could simply work, somewhere, and hope to find a niche, make a living, buy a house and raise a family.
There were factories. Families owned retail stores that supported them well. Farmers made a living without multi-million operations. You could stumble and fall in youth and pick yourself up by middle age.
But the stakes are higher now for this spring’s graduates.
Costs of living are higher. Wages are low for those who do not find a trade or college-tied career. Many working people, and this includes people with college degrees, know the margin between paying the bills and homelessness can be very thin.
Both physical life and economic livelihoods are fragile.
You also cannot underestimate the importance of pride in a job. Will the future job market provide this?
To work and pay the bills is not enough for many. They want to make a difference for the better in the world.
I hope this year’s graduates are that way in great quantity and quality.
We need a generation of pragmatic thinkers. May they not be bound by conventional thinking that has led to fear bearing more weight in decisions than thoughtfulness. May they look to real solutions to long-range problems rather than quick fixes that cause more problems.
But as parents, all we can do is wish or maybe say a prayer or two.
Our graduates will have to put one foot in front of the other by themselves as they face the world. We’ll enjoy the spring and enjoy their triumph. Let us not waste the hope their optimism provides.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.