This week’s Courier Herald column:
It is graduation season again. That means it’s time for my annual column for
graduates, and for those of us a bit older who are preparing the next
generation to assume new roles and responsibilities as adults. It’s not always a smooth transition of power,
but most of the time we get through it.
So let’s start there.
For the graduates, you’re participating in a great rite of passage into
adulthood. You’ve probably already been
thinking about all the things you’re going to be able to do without the stifling
control of parental mandates. Now is the
time to fully understand and appreciate the maxim “with great power comes great
Yes, you’re going to be able to make more of your own
decisions. The more self-sufficient you
are, the more independent you can be with your life. This goes well beyond your parents’
control. You’ll find that throughout
life, your decisions are influenced by the strings that are attached to your
income and social influences.
Parents, remember that folks our age made mistakes too. (Also, remember that we still do). We hopefully learned from them. Hopefully your children did too, and still
do. As your roles transition to one that
is more advisory, understand that persuasion is more valuable than issuing
dictates and ultimatums.
Prepare yourselves that your role will transition to one of
support after the fact. Mistakes will be
made. “I told you so” doesn’t fix
anything. Always focus on moving forward
with the understanding of the wisdom gained from each situation, good and bad.
Moving forward is the key, always. None of us can relive the past, which is more
of a lesson here for the parents than for the graduates. We had our youth. Now it is time for the young adults to have
theirs. Our nostalgia is not their
burden to bear.
There is, however, history.
History is more than dates and times, but a record of past successes and
failures. Much of it contains imperfections
of humanity. Rather than being revised
to reflect only the positive, or disappeared altogether, history should be
studied and internalized accurately and in full.
This is not an object lesson to dwell upon the bygone eras,
however. The key is to marry the wisdom
of the past with the opportunities of the future.
Opportunity is the key, here. Despite the current noise about divisiveness,
America and Americans have always been overwhelmingly optimistic.
We have never been perfect.
We continue to be the country that is the “shining city on a hill” that
others envy and wish to emulate. While
working through contemporary issues of the day amongst ourselves, we must
always remember that. We must also work
to protect it.
And thus, for graduates and parents alike, we should all
resist the urge to address our problems with “someone should do something”. Delegating solutions to others contains the
inherent dangers of having someone else design a solution we don’t like. Or, even worse, the “solution” may not
actually end up solving the problem at all.
Indifference or incompetence are the perils of solution delegation.
Instead graduates, it is time to internalize the mantra “I
am somebody”. Parents, it’s time to
recognize the same, and welcome the next generation into the solutions business
– with equal standing.
Graduates will certainly admit to learning from their
parents. Parents know their children
have also taught them about themselves and the world around us.
Graduation doesn’t mean an end to learning, but a transition
to how we learn. For the generations
involved, it means a process where we learn from each other.
Those of us that are older can share wisdom and historical
perspective. Those that are younger
provide perspective on how the world is changing, and where we’re most likely
headed. Together, we can work on making
the world a better place for the generations that come after all of us.