Almost anything one might say to a graduating class comes across as a cliché.

From the deepest thoughts to the most rote well wishes, it’s difficult to imagine that any piece of advice to new graduates has not been said somewhere before, by someone else and far more eloquently to boot.

However. Graduation seasons arrive nonetheless. And those of us who have gone through the process before — be at high school, college or any other program you could name — are compelled to weigh in. So give us this single brief moment of your time, and we promise not to trod the most well worn of all possible paths.

The world ahead is not easy.

The challenges ahead of you are not small.

Your elders once sat where you did and believed that they were going to solve the problems of the world. It should be clear by now that rather than solving them, they made many of them worse.

We face a political system that is all but broken. It has been eroded by partisanship and the corrosive effects of money. Indeed, the situation is now so dire that challenges to our underlying systems are coming from both sides. The GOP has flirted with authoritarian-style leadership under President Trump, while Democrats have cozied up to socialism.

Our educational systems, once the envy of the world, have degraded. The best-paying jobs are often available only to those who come from privilege. We cannot hope to move forward as a country unless opportunity is widely shared. And you, graduates, will have to figure out how to do that.

Finally and most pressingly, perhaps, we face a world itself in which the climate and very environment in which we live is changing rapidly. There are many who say we have but a single generation — your generation — to repair or mitigate the damage the generations before you have wrought. This is no small task. We do not envy you, and some of us may indeed wrangle with you over how to do so.

But the most enduring and uplifting cliché of graduation season is that each class carries with it new possibilities, new opportunities and new hope. The challenges we have just outlines will not be solved overnight or buy any single person. They will take systemic change, collective action and societal transformation.

Good luck, graduates. This world needs you.

 

GateHouse Kansas