High school graduations in Plumas County culminate this Friday with commencement exercises at our four public high schools. First and foremost, we need to celebrate our young people for their accomplishments: At this moment, you are beautiful, talented, invincible and immortal.
We also need to recognize the efforts of all school personnel — from the bus drivers to the librarians, the maintenance workers to the administrators — who, each year, do more with less.
The larger community, which is always so generous with scholarships and other forms of support, deserves credit for helping to shepherd our young people through the tumultuous waters of adolescence and into adulthood.
And, of course, the parents, whose duties would more than fill the space of this column.
It would be unrealistic, however, not to point out the obvious: Today’s graduates enter a very challenging world. State colleges and universities are cutting admissions and raising tuition, the unemployment rate in California remains high, and opportunities are more diminished than we have seen in generations.
To our graduates we say: Have faith. Bring all your youthful exuberance to bear on today’s problems. We need you — your energy, your new ways of approaching old problems. While the challenges you face are great, the rewards — and they will come, eventually — will be even greater.
Be prepared to fail. We know that sounds like an odd thing to say in a congratulatory column, but more and more research is showing that learning how to fail and, more importantly, how to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and continue on are essential skills for eventual success. The going may be rough for a while, but working through these bumpy times will build the necessary resilience.
Keep your hopes alive. As Barbara Kingsolver said in a commencement address at Duke University, “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides.”
She went on to exhort her listeners to redefine “success.” “You could invent a new kind of Success that includes children’s poetry, butterfly migrations, butterfly kisses, the Grand Canyon, eternity. If somebody says ‘Your money or your life,’ you could say: ‘Life.’ And mean it. You’ll see things collapse in your time, the big houses, the empires of glass. The new green things that sprout up through the wreck — those will be yours.”
To our graduates on a job well done, we say congratulations. To an uncertain future, we say you will prevail.