Grads, you’re on your own.
I don’t have any young’uns in Columbia County schools anymore. My last one picked up her diploma at the James Brown Arena and Airhorn Test Facility last year, signaling the final trip across a high school stage for my girls.
So except for the need one day for service from one of you – you know, at a drive-through window, if this diploma is the highest you ever achieve, or perhaps at the doctor’s office, if you’re one of the many smart ones – it would seem that I don’t have a vested interest in your success or failure.
But you know what? Collectively, everyone has a stake in your future.
No one kid picked out of the crowd of 1,622 graduates from Columbia County public and private schools this year has any particular significance to me, or to anyone who isn’t their friend or relative. Yet every single one of you is vital.
That’s the message I would have delivered to those students busily text-messaging under their robes during commencement exercises this weekend, if I’d been invited. Sadly, through some tragic oversight, I didn’t receive the request. That’s really too bad, considering Columbia County pays $1,000 to its graduation speakers. I could have used the money.
Each year I regret missing that invitation, again, carrying on a tradition from my late friend Aubrey Shaw, who passed away without ever having received the opportunity to share his particular brand of wisdom with the graduates.
So, why are all you graduates so important? Well, someone has to outlive us and keep this thing going. We didn’t work so hard to build this world of asphalt and strip-malls just so it could fall into disarray and ruin after our deaths.
What we really hope as we gaze toward geezer-hood, however, is that the kids graduating today will leave the world a better place than they found it – unlike us, who seem hell-bent on taking the fine vehicle our parents left us and running it into the ditch.
After all, our economy hasn’t struggled so much, and for so long, because we’ve been such wise stewards of our resources. Sure, we can blame much of it on the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and ensuing wars as the catalyst, but at some point, grads, we have to admit we’ve failed to fix the problem and then get out of the way to let someone else give it a try.
That “someone else,” kids, is you. Of course, we don’t expect you to jump straight from high school to running the country (though you couldn’t do a worse job than those already ruining it). But we sincerely need you all to give it a try to the best of your abililty.
Besides: We’re counting on you not just to rescue the planet from us, but also to become productive citizens. That way you can pay into Social Security to keep it solvent for us a little while longer. Unfortunately, unless you can fix that, too, you’ll never live to see a dime of it. But by then we’ll be dead anyway.
So, go forth and conquer, Class of 2013. Our pensions depend on it.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, ext. 106. Follow at www.twitter.com/