On campuses across the country, people celebrate the month of May like no other. Years of effort find reward with a bit of pomp and circumstance as students and families ponder the words of wisdom shared from every lectern. The life lessons imparted by each speaker are as varied as the individuals sharing them; their goal: to prepare students for the life beyond the learning institution.
In preparing some thoughts to share with the class of 2014, I recalled my various graduations and commencements. My toolkit grew over those educational years from basic literacy to advanced equations, small observations to scientific procedures, and inner awareness to shaping external narratives. As I’ve written about grit, my tenacity certainly helped in my achievements, but I owe my many teachers a debt for fueling my love of learning.
To the graduates of 2014, no matter how far you may go in life, never stop the search for knowledge. The persistent pursuit of knowledge gives us a platform for improvement in our lives as well as a deeper understanding of the world around us. When you reach a peak along your path of experience, remember that it is one mountain in a range, and that fulfillment and success do not come from resting on laurels. Human understanding can only advance when people continue to ask questions. With this in mind, I will paraphrase what others have told me: “Trust the person in search of the truth, be wary of the one who claims to have found it.” Nurture a love of learning and discovery in all ways and it will serve you throughout your lifetime. This lesson was given to me by the many teachers on my journey, and I must share it as you newly minted graduates venture on your way.
There is no greater threat to discovery and understanding than certainty. -J.C.
As many graduates turning tassels today are in the Millennial cohort, I thought I’d share another recent item for discussion. I caught a rebroadcast of an Intelligence2(read as Intelligence Squared) debate on the statement: “Millennials Don’t Stand a Chance.” The structure of the debate puts two teams of two on opposing points of the statement and by comparing before and after votes, the team who garners the greatest growth in support wins the debate. I’ll let you listen to the debate or read a transcript if you want to know what happened, but I’ll share a perspective on the premise of the debate.
Those supporting the (rather pessimistic) view of Gen Y’s hardships were not Millennials themselves, but they did state valid points on the struggles we must face. However, if you have learned anything in your lifetime, whatever your generation, I hope you know that taking someone else’s word for your own success is shooting yourself in the foot. Yes, there are issues that we must face to elevate all of our generation, and society at large, but declarations before results can lead to “egg on face” (I’m looking at you, Thomas Dewey). This connects back to the search for knowledge and understanding. If you recognize the issues that need to be addressed, then you can begin testing or implementing changes to bring about positive results. It doesn’t take an advanced mathematics degree to know how many infinite possibilities exist with the variables in society, but it does take optimism (with a dose of realism) to figure out the next steps forward.
So to you my Gen Y colleagues, I tip my hat to your accomplishments in education. Seek knowledge as though it were the air for your lungs, and stay positive in the face of life’s challenges. These skills will help you go far as you commence to spread around the world.
Want to share your graduation story or favorite advice? Do you believe Millennials are doomed or destined for success? Listen to the debate and share your thoughts with the Gen Y crowd.