Opinion Columns & Blogs

They’ve graduated. Now it’s time to really learn, and the lessons start here

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 responsibility.”

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.

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