With high school commencements coming soon, here is a Massac memo written back in 1995 on the subject. Has anything changed since then?
Commencement addresses may be out of style. As high schools become larger and larger, they just barely have time to give out diplomas before the restless parents and friends get up and walk out of the ceremonies.
But back in the old days, the commencement address by some visiting dignitary was standard.
I don't think that I'll ever be invited to give a commencement address because I don't have the right credentials. But I have often wondered what I would say to high school seniors about to go out into adulthood. I decided to write and print a commencement address, even though it will never be delivered in a high school auditorium.
So here goes.
Now that you are out of high school, one of the first things you need to do is get out of town.
For some people, Metropolis is a great place to live. It has advantages, especially when raising children. But, you will never know if Metropolis is right for you unless you look elsewhere.
You need to find out what life is like other places, and then maybe return and settle down in Metropolis.
The best way to get out of town is to attend a college. And, to stay at that college on weekends. It makes no sense whatever to go to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale or Murray State University and drive home every weekend. You miss too much of college life. And there is a great deal to learn outside of class. Some of it is even valuable.
Considering the cost of higher education, the military offers wonderful educational benefits. If you are not going away to college, technical school or the military, the next best thing is to attend a community college or technical school in the area. Hopefully, you would go on to school away from here, if at all possible, after the first year or two going to school nearby.
You have already made decisions that will alter the rest of your life. Some of you have had babies or fathered babies, or have damaged your health, or gotten hooked on drugs or alcohol. If you have already made these decisions, it may be difficult to change the direction of your life.
But you can change almost everything. If you are overweight, now is the time to do something about it. If you smoke, quit. If you do not have any type of exercise program, get one.
It will be much easier to do these things now, than it will after 20 years of being overweight, a smoker or a couch potato.
You might not think it is easy to make these changes right now, but I guarantee it will be harder later on.
There are so many things to do in life to make it interesting if you will just do them. There are all kinds of classes to take at night, people to meet, things to learn. But, in most cases, no one is going to drag you into the real world. Many adventures await you, but you have to take some steps.
Twenty, 30 or 50 years from now, when you stop and look back on life, you will mostly be sorry for the little things you did not do.
I can remember so many adventures. . . camping trips, vacations, etc. . . that I talked about but never got around to doing. The more of these things you can do, the better you will feel about your life.
As we grow older, we learn that it is often the little things that are most important. That can certainly be the case with jobs. Everybody can't be the best at everything. You may find that you hold a job where you are not the best person at that position. But, if you show up for work on time, try to learn as much about the position as possible and do your best work, you may be a much more valuable employee than someone who has a natural skill, but goofs off.
I don't guess a person can really learn common sense. But, he or she certainly can learn to be prepared with as much common knowledge as possible. At the Planet, I don't tell my employees how to vote or how to dress, or how to run their lives. But, I do tell them that if they don't have sense enough to keep a state map and a flashlight in their car, I don't need them working for me.
Maybe that is from my old Boy Scout training to be prepared. But there is a lot to be said for being prepared for emergencies.
Being prepared can't eliminate the emergencies, but it can certainly make them easier to overcome.
Much can be learned by just paying attention to your surroundings. And certainly much needed information can be overlooked by not paying attention.
As you go into different areas, traveling across the country or in different cities, it will be helpful to know that even-numbered highways run east and west and odd-numbered highways run north and south.
In most river towns, the numbered streets run parallel with the river, with the lowest number nearest the river. And pretty much everywhere, the even-numbered houses and businesses are on one side of the street and the odd-numbered ones on the other.
It makes it much easier to find a city, or a house, it you know little tidbits about how things are organized.
There is also a great deal to be said about "learning" some common sense about taking care of your daily needs. If at age 18 you can not wash clothes, prepare a basic meal and get yourself up in the morning, your parents have failed in their basic duties.
Nothing could be more important than for them to teach you self-reliance.
But it is never too late to learn, even if you have to learn on your own.
Conversely, it is never too early to think about your health. Taking better care of your body with proper eating and exercise will pay off in the long run.
I am constantly amazed at the people who are younger than I am, but whose activities are restricted because of health limitations. You will suffer enough over the years with health problems without adding to them by failing to care for your body.
I am sure when I graduated from Calhoun, Ky. high school, we had a commencement speaker, but I don't have the faintest idea who he was or what he said.
I do remember the principal at the high school, L. D. Knight. He was sort of a rougher and gruffer version of Sid Sexton, and in those days when the paddle was used frequently, we were scared to death of him.
But one Saturday morning I was at school working on decorations for the senior prom when Mr. Knight and I walked to another area of the school to carry chairs or something.
I remember as we walked down the hall, he said, "Clyde, when you get older, you will come to appreciate the value of a good, healthy bowel movement." At the time, I thought it was funny, but later I learned the wisdom of L.D. Knight.
So 30 years from now, you will look back and not remember most things that seemed important during high school. You may not remember who was the head cheerleader, who made the best grades in a class or who wore the fanciest clothes.
But you probably will remember some little things about students who you liked or didn't like. You will probably be very sorry that you did not pay more attention to the people around you and what was going on with them, and with you, in what should have been the happiest days of your life.
The important thing is to remember that there is always much to learn, whether it be higher physics or ballroom dancing, or anything else that may improve your life.
But it won't come to you unless you get out there and work at it.
Oh, and by the way, as you live the rest of your lives, don't forget to have fun and laugh a lot.