Class of 2013 Wins
I am not worried about them, not even a little. Tomorrow we will sit in seats and watch them move about the stage in their robes, nervous and ambitious and finished. They are about to start the next thing. I am not worried, even if they are. They are transitioning from the safe embrace of academia into the cold sharp unforgiving hands of everywhere else.
We have a terrible economy, we have war, we have competition like never before, we have shocking rates of poverty and debt, and I am not worried for them. The statistics are dismal, the surveys are sad, the studies are all frightening, and unemployment is a violent plague. They have been bathed in digital technology and knowledge networks unlike anything in history, they benefit from the gifts of a great and powerful industrial, technological, and information revolutions which has left them in a boat unlike we have ever built for the young before.
Industry is a shell of its former self, home ownership a piece of myth told to them by their grandparents. They are inheriting no pension, no benefits, no signing bonus jobs from an economy so rocked by fraud and failure that the word “recovery” seems like a cruel joke. The generations of boomers and X have shredded the possibilities for the Millennials, crumpled up the chances they had to continue our legacy of taking us forward into another hundred years of exceptionalism and burned it to the ground to make sure it was useless and irretrievable by them. It would have been our best hope of joy in the future. We even went after their air, food and water supplies, we took it all, we weren’t satisfied by the gifts left by the generous bright few who lived through the last big depression and made our country. We had to have it all, deregulated our ways right into a no-class system, because in a system you have to have levels and layers and striation and movement between places of wealth and security and lets be clear, we have none of that. There is no ladder to climb, no boot straps, those concepts are dead.
Those with decent paying jobs are holding them until retirement and coveting them to the end, never bringing up younger equally paid versions of themselves for fear they will create monsters that will lay them off or outsource them. Which of course is the way they did their peers. Cutting the fat of the workforce and government until nothing was left. The pension jobs are gone, the benefit-full-time-living-wage life is gone. My students will have none of that noise. And still I am not worried for them, I will not fear for their future, I will not see them fail, they don’t have it in them.
They cannot fall down, they can only rise, and they can only build. They will inherit none of the infrastructure that my parents did. They will make their own. I believe they will create an entire new infrastructure if we let them, if we continue to push them to seek the unknown. Do not let your fear for them overtake your support of their risky bright moves. I know you have given them everything you knew to give them and I know you did your best to parent them into their adulthood, but now it’s time to encourage like never before.
These new adults crowned graduates are fresh and real and more than we have ever been, because they are here in this new world free of our ladders and the goals that inhibited us. There is no cradle to grave employment, there is no house in the suburbs for them to work toward. We gutted the pension funds, and failed to make universal health care a priority, so they won’t have to navigate our failures. Our failures will fade into the landscape and they will create their own revolution, one that is robust and lean and mean and good for them. They will invent and innovate their little tails off, and on the other side of that will be a life we cannot imagine. They will be beasts of their own design. They will own their self-made destinies, because manifest is for amateurs, what they will be attempting is only for real pro-caliber dreamers.
We cannot imagine what their lives will be, because that is up to them to imagine. Only they will know what they want from their futures. We are hopelessly vein to believe they would want what we had. They are better than mortgages that lock us into mediocre jobs and early heart attacks. They won’t stand for it, they won’t be bound by our limitations, they will discover those limits for themselves and let me tell you, this group, this wonderful beautiful young dynamic group, will travel farther and faster than we dared dream. Our science-fiction will look steam-powered to their realities. Fear for them? No, I envy them, I wish I could travel their paths, I wish I could see the distant adventures they will see. Please stop telling them how worried you are for them, it only inhibits them. Because they then work to ease your worry, and that is very selfish of you to ask them to take time out of their extraordinary lives to calm your fears. They don’t need your worry, they need you to let go of your expectations for their lives. You lit the fuse now let them take flight. Maybe if you are lucky they will remember how you helped and return to you and honor you with every thing they do. Because that is what it is to know them, a real-once-in-a-lifetime-bonafide-damn-capital-H honor to know them.
Congratulations for this and for the next thing.