EDITORIAL | A word to the class of 2017

Congratulations graduates!

Whether you walked across the stage this weekend as a newly-minted alumnus of Seattle Pacific University or the University of Washington, or finished your stint in higher education at another school in the state or the country over the past month, you’ve proven your intellectual mettle and resolve.

For that, you should be proud.

Now that you’ve removed your cap and gown and had at least a little time to decompress from the pomp and circumstance, it’s likely become apparent that, through no fault of your own, you’re entering a milestone point in your life during a really, really weird time in this country.

And from all angles, you’ll get well-meaning (if not always good) advice about how to handle the transition from the academic sphere to the workforce.

Some will tell you to hit the ground running, and pour your soul into your chosen career for a while. Others will suggest taking a bit of break after 17 consecutive years of schooling, a chance to hit reset before the rigors of “the real world.” Others still will say everything in between.

Like snowflakes, no two words of wisdom will be a like, each unique in their own way, colored by the life experienced of the person doling it out.

We’ll keep it brief, and our advice isn’t really specific to this year’s graduating class, as we could all stand to learn a thing or two.

And it starts with facing the people giving input from every which angle: Listen.

The expression coined by author Maurice Switzer in the early 1900s states that, “it is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”

You’ll come to your own conclusion on who the fools are, but you can’t get there without hearing them in the first place. There’s a difference between keeping an open mind, and openly accepting the opinions that come your way, and it’s not difficult to determine who’s arguing in good faith for the betterment of us all, and who’s merely playing devil’s advocate.

The other thing you’ve certainly heard time and again is how you — and the rest of your generation — are murdering one industry after another. Half-hearted think pieces have taken aim at millennials time and again, for “killing” everything from department stores, to chain restaurants, bar soap, paper napkins, and the sport of golf.

So powerful, you are! And destructive too, apparently (please spare us newspapers, we beg of you). 

While you destroy relics of the past the same way your parents were the death knell for cassette tapes, rotary phones, and pagers, it is you that will also be at the forefront of innovation. Embrace the power of ideas, whether technological, social, or political. Change starts small, but can snowball in a hurry.

At the end of each day, ask yourself: Am I a better person than I was when I got out of bed this morning, and have I done something to leave the world a better place than I found it when I woke up?

If we can all answer yes to both of those questions, we’re on the right track.