First of all, what were all these young women thinking when they decided to wear 6-inch spike heels to this ceremony? I had to stifle a laugh as more than one of them tried to smile through the pain as they struggled to walk in style. When they get to be my age, they will discover the axiom of "comfort over fashion". And those shapeless gowns and awkward-fitting caps don't really warrant such a dramatic fashion accessory, do they? In their rush to adulthood, some of these young ladies just learned their first painful lesson... it doesn't always pay to follow the crowd.
Most of them looked happy and eager to step out of the last of their childhood years and into what they think will be the exciting and fun college years. I wanted to shout at them, "Be very careful what path you choose over the next 4 years. Your future, and whether you sink or swim, depends on the choices you make."
It is a trend these days to decorate the tops of the graduation caps, and many graduates sported their choice of college. I shuddered to think of the cost of a minimum four years at some of these state schools; especially if they make a mistake in their choice of degree plan. Is there really going to be a return on that $80,000+ Psychology or Social Work degree?
It did not surprise me that the Valedictorian and Salutatorian of the Class of 2014 were of Asian descent. That trend has been apparent for over a decade. And in their speeches, these honored students acknowledged that hard work and being the best was expected of them by their families. Notice I said, "being the best", and not "being the best that they could be". There is a difference. "Being the Best" means you stop at nothing to be the last one standing. "Being the Best you can be" somehow gives one an escape hatch when things get too hard; it grants you an acceptable level of achievement... and that is most definitely unacceptable in the Asian culture.
Perhaps the most obvious element of this graduation class was their total dependence on, and the homage they paid, to technology. In her speech, the President of the Student Council said she wanted to quote a man who had greatly influenced her life: Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but somehow I was expecting maybe her father or grandfather, a teacher who had made an impact on her life, or (dare I hope?) even Jesus!
But I should have known. This generation has successfully defined their lives by a handful of impersonal phrases, and a look-at-me attitude; both encouraged by social media and the inventions of Mr. Jobs. And the #1 and #2 ranked students of the Class of 2014 closed out their opening speeches by turning their backs to their classmates, holding their cell phones aloft, and taking a "selfie" of themselves -- all to the roaring approval of their fellow students.
Why did I not anticipate this? They've known nothing else their whole lives. But isn't it all brief and short-lived? Don't those digital photos just get replaced by the next "event" in their digitally recorded lives? They will never know the joy of looking at old yearbooks and reading what old friends had to write on the pages of your high school memories. Today, the Facebook post or Instagram message is quickly forgotten when the next text crosses the screen.
Then there was the absence of any "spiritual" element to this graduation ceremony. While it was held in Texas, and we did say the Pledge of Allegiance (including the "one nation under God" component) and sang the Star-Spangled Banner, there was no opening invocation or blessing upon the students. The Valedictorian thanked God for her achievements in high school and the Salutatorian thanked his Guru. That's about as close as we got.
I know I am showing my age and my biases. But I'm also expressing the wisdom from my life experiences. And although the Class of 2014 may know more about computers and technology than I ever will (or want to know), I am sad that their lives will be engulfed in the fast-paced sphere of technology and immediate gratification. If they would listen, I would tell them to slow down; give their fingers a rest and unplug every once in awhile; and listen to a human voice and have a conversation with a "real" person at least once a day.
I would tell them that not everything they watch, listen to, and follow through technology outlets is even real. Real women don't look perfect every minute and aren't a size 2. Not everyone works at a glamorous job with a six-figure salary, wears the latest clothes, drives a $60,000 car, or lives in fancy apartments. Real people committed to real marriages don't cheat or have affairs; they often give more than they receive, and happy homes are achieved by hard work ... real, hard work. Last of all on this topic, they should know that those "reality TV shows" aren't even real ... they are invented and created; it's all about creating a false image. And I would warn them that Deception and False Realities could be a very dangerous trap for this generation.
I would tell them that not everyone is cut out for college and learning a trade is a real smart path in this day and age. A plumber, air conditioning repairman, welder, electrician, or mechanic will always be able to get a job. And if you really want to work hard, you can own your own business and hire employees to do the labor while you make that high six-figure salary. Not everyone can be a civil engineer.
Finally, above all else, I would advise them to develop a relationship with the Creator of this Universe... because their world is bigger than themselves. They may have been born at the turn of the century, but I strongly feel that they may live to see His return and the reality of the true Millennial. Before that happens, their world is going to be traumatic and chaotic; full of that deception and false reality I warned them about. The only schooling that will prepare them for that is what they can learn from the Holy Bible. I can't over-emphasize how important it will be to know their Savior.
As I looked out over the sea of shining, innocent faces I knew they were all waiting for that next momentous step in their lives. I prayed that each would walk the path that God purposed for them, and that when the time comes to choose their allegiance, they will put down the cell phones and look up for their deliverance. If they do, their future will never be brighter.
Luke 12:32 "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."