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?