In a few days, high school seniors across Wallowa County will graduate from high school. The ceremony is often referred to as commencement. It is a time of moving forward and also looking back.
Students will leave the relative safety of the confines of a familiar school where they have often spent much of their young lives. They’ll commence out into a big world that holds great potential but also great peril.
Whether they choose to continue their education, join the military or the work force, there will be challenges. Fortunately, the tight-knit community out of which Wallowa County students grow provides a grounding that others don’t have.
No matter how great the preparation, what is ahead can be daunting and a bit overwhelming.
Advice will abound. Grads will be told to make a mark in the world, to hold to their beliefs and to look the world directly in the eye. Never let ‘em see you sweat. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Keep your powder dry.
Shakespeare’s “to thine own self be true” is often tossed out, although if you analyze the words spoken by Polonius in “Hamlet,” most literates believe there’s an overtone of narcissism that isn’t helpful.
It seems appropriate, however, that this time of evolution in the lives of students be greeted with helpful insight from those who have stood in their shoes in the recent and not-so-recent past.
One thing each graduate will experience is the beginning of a lifetime of constant decision-making. We are shaped by the decisions we make. We are deciding what kind of future we want to create each moment.
Learning the art of considering carefully and making the right choices can mean the difference between success and failure. Do our children have the innate skills to assess a challenge and determine the best path forward?
It is not possible for schools, parents or society to teach a child every fact, figure and formula he or she will need to succeed. More important are the coping skills that encourage young people to examine all sides, contemplate the outcome and then move forward.
While not every decision can wait for a protracted period of weighing options, those in-the-trenches decisions are often the most important.
It’s difficult to tell young people who often see themselves as invincible and live in an instantaneous world that slowing down and taking a careful look before leaping is a good habit.
It’s not how teens are hard-wired. It goes against the popular philosophies of the day.
It is our hope that the Class of 2017 will spend the remainder of their days living a life of quiet contemplation, that the care and feeding of their parents, families, teachers and community have equipped them for success in all their endeavors.
That they will know when to be rugged individualists and when to assimilate, and that above all, they will travel a journey of success and happiness.
Congratulations to each graduate. Our best as you come to the end of one journey and the beginning of another.