Friday, May 21, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

It’s graduation season again! I’m sure everyone knows someone—friend, close or distant relative, friend of a friend, coworker—who is making that great leap from high school or college and transitioning into the next phase of their lives. I’m usually musing about graduates budding with promise, forging a path into a bright new tomorrow, but this year, not so much.

With the economy in sad shape and unemployment at record highs all over the country, I’m wondering just how much promise the future holds for these folks. If the high-schoolers are smart, they’ll go to college, if for no other reason, to delay entry into a practically non-existent job market and to leverage that degree in a few years to stand out from the massive crowd of competition. But, I guess that’s rather negative way to look at an occasion that, for most, marks the culmination of years of tedious classes, hard work and endless partying. Regardless of what’s going on out there in the world, for them, it’s time to celebrate.

When my sister graduated from college a few years ago, one of the most memorable moments from her ceremony, other than hearing her named called and watching her walk up to get her degree, was the commencement address delivered by Mae Jemison (first black woman in space, in case you didn't know). I was literally mesmerized the entire time she spoke. Her message for the graduates was clear and direct: “If you’re sitting around the table of life being polite and minding your manners, how much of a difference could you possibly make?” Goosebumps! I absolutely love those powerful, moving, soul-stirring messages prepared to usher new grads into the next phase of their lives. You can’t find richer motivation. One of my all time favorite commencement addresses was delivered by J.K. Rowling to the 2008 graduating class of Harvard University. She spoke about how the great failures in her life actually pushed her toward her current success. I took a snippet of the speech and posted it up at my desk as a constant reminder: “You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

This is also the time of year when I Google the "Mindset List” published by Beloit College. The provides insight to the world that today’s graduates grew up in, what shapes their mindset, if you will. This basically just makes me feel old, but it is interesting. Here are a few but you can find the entire list here:

  • The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
  • They have known only two presidents.
  • For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
  • They have grown up getting lost in "big boxes."
  • There has always been only one Germany.
  • They are wireless, yet always connected.
  • A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents'.
  • Thanks to pervasive headphones in the back seat, parents have always been able to speak freely in the front.
  • A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
  • Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines.
  • Faux fur has always been a necessary element of style.
  • They grew up pushing their own miniature shopping carts in the supermarket.
  • They grew up with and have outgrown faxing as a means of communication.
  • "Google" has always been a verb.
  • Text messaging is their email.
  • Bar codes have always been on everything, from library cards and snail mail to retail items.
  • Madden has always been a game, not a Superbowl-winning coach.
  • Young women's fashions have never been concerned with where the waist is.
  • They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp.
  • So" as in "Sooooo New York," has always been a drawn-out adjective modifying a proper noun, which in turn modifies something else.

No wonder, given this list, that the best grad gifts are tech gadgets! Smart phones, readers like Kindle and netbooks (aka mini-laptops) rank among the hottest! I'm actually looking for something memorable, inexpensive and "out of the box" (aka, not on that list) for a very special young lady who's graduating from high school. Any ideas?


Anonymous said...

My baby sister is graduating high school next month. I am planning on giving her a Target giftcard to get things for her dorm (I know boring), and scrapbooking supplies. I feel like this time of her life is full of photo ops (her prom is tonight). And it's the perfect way to capture all the memories. Just an idea.

FB @ said...

I think I'm in that same generation (I identify with all of it) except:

1. Madden is a brand to me like Steve Madden shoes
2. I hate text messaging, I'd rather email

As for gifts.. I'd say a gift card is a good, practical gift to buy essentials or whatever she might need to land a job (cheap suit for interviews, etc)

Or even just a nice suit?? Not many grads have that (I sure as heck didn't.. and still don't. :P)

Other digital tech options:
1. iGo Charger & its tips -- cuts down on a lot of cord clutter, and I just bring one charger w/ different tips when I travel

2. Belkin Traveling adapter (I feature it a lot on my blogs and it's on my travel posts coming up, this week (may 2010) on and more detail on on June 2nd 2010)

3. Digital camera or mini handheld video camcorder
For the camera I like my Canon SD880IS (review on and I hear the minoHD camcorders are great

4. Netbook (obviously..) or the HP slate is coming up sometime end of this year or next

5. Laptop/work bag/case that's professional but girly (not all black)

6. iPod? if she doesn't have one, you can load videos on there too, I have all of sex and the city in mp4 format to watch when I am on flights or just in general

Kristen said...

When I graduated from college, people gave me resume paper with matching envelopes, and really nice looking thank you notes to send after interviews. I also got a copy of "Oh, the Places You'll Go" by Doctor Seuss which I'll probably pass onto my kids.

Luna said...

i agree that for many high schoolers i would suggest college. its true that with how the economy is it is a good way to delay having to be in the working work for a while. also education is important no matter what and college is an experience you will always value.