I suspect that the hardest speeches in the world to give are graduation speeches, for they certainly can be difficult to listen to at times! Graduates endure a lot this time of year, and even more difficult than the formal graduation speeches are the dozens of lectures: What are you doing after graduation? You need to go into computers. My nephew is a doctor. What do you mean you don’t have any plans? Honestly, you darn young ‘uns, I don’t know what’s coming of this country!
Everyone means well, but us old ‘uns quickly forget how we felt as graduates. For weeks they have made a steady march toward one of adulthood’s first milestones, grappling with the same doubts, fears, and dreams we all battle. Teenage stereotypes vanish by the time they ascend the stage and shake our hands. The crowd contains a few Pollyannas. Others are dead certain of their destiny, but most are as clueless as we were a few years back. On the other hand, many have overcome challenges we cannot fathom. Things have not changed much since we graduated.
I recently read an article about this generation. It lamented their lackadaisical attitudes, and how they have replaced human interaction with computers. High maintenance, needy for affirmation, soft. This generation expects Mom’s and Dad’s lifestyles without working for it. Basement-dwellers, lazy, and uninterested in traditional values or the community around them. I think the article was spot on, but the article was not about these graduates . . . or even millennials. It was about Generation X, my generation. In fact, I read several articles about working with Generation X’ers. The advice was completely swappable with other intergenerational transitions, not only with millennials. Yuppies in the 80’s. Hippies in the 70’s. Even the flower children of the 60’s. None of this is new; it is just the ever-revolving generation gap.
Seriously, the other day I overhead a millennial barely 30 years old lamenting the younger generation. Likewise, these 2018 graduates will soon be questioning the class of 2038’s fitness to take the reins, shaking their heads with the same concerns of older generations since the beginning of coffee shops. We forget that the term Generation X was first applied to the young adults of the 1950’s. I would not be surprised if the term millennials was also applied to the young whippersnappers of the 1900’s, with their fancy horseless carriages, electric lights, and telephones. Just imagine, people calling right into my home any time of day or night. It’s an invasion of my privacy!
The things that these graduates value – family, freedom, meaningful work with flexible schedules, and purpose-filled lives – sound just like the things that millennials, X’ers, and Baby Boomers value. They embrace our values of hard work and self-determination, even if they express them differently. However, we could learn some things from these graduates (iGen or Generation Z), especially in areas of kindness and tolerance. They have the enviable ability to look beyond stereotypes to see the individual, which is not a bad thing. And while they are more adept at technology, us oldies catch up lickety-split.
For any graduates reading, I wish you the absolute best. You are just as prepared for this world as we were for ours, but none of us could keep up in this age. (Millennials would struggle, too, but they may still be too young to admit it.) I don’t have any long speeches or awkward lectures, only pride and respect for you as men and women. Enjoy life, relish the endless possibilities, and invest your time in things you can master and that bring you meaning. Honestly, I don’t know what is coming of this country under you young ‘uns, but I am glad it is in your hands, graduates. May God bless you all.