You are, you are the future.
And the future looks good.
—OneRepublic, The Future Looks Good
In this moment, our world is as crazy as ever – perhaps a bit crazier. To read any headline is to sense that things are coming unhinged; that the train is about to jump off of its tracks. We also continue to hear the steady litany of criticisms heaped upon the “cupcake” generation we’ve created. Like all previous generations, we lament the youth of our time and their collective shortcomings as we see them through the lense of experience. Dissecting a collective identity with blunt tools, we use sweeping descriptions to cast millions of individuals into precise little boxes of personality, motivation, and disposition.
I watch my daughter and her graduating class and see something different. They are strong and capable. They are savvy. They grew up in the midst of massive changes in technology, society, and human interaction. They’ve grown up with coddling parents, medical/mental diagnoses that didn’t exist a generation ago, and more excuses than we’ve ever seen. They have access to more information, resources, entertainment, and distractions that we could have ever imagined. And yet, they still found a way to graduate – many with honors, scholarships, and futures that look as bright or brighter than anything we’ve had in the past. Are there problems? Sure. When weren’t there problems? We are so quick to forget.
As I write this, a OneRepublic song keeps rolling around in my head. You are, you are the future. And the future looks good. My commencement message? Keep doing what you’re doing. You’ve got this. Do your best every day and you’ll figure it out. There will be naysayers; ignore them. The media will always paint the world in the ugliest, most dramatic ways; see through it. Experts and pundits will always try to define you with the bluntest tools and in the broadest categories; refuse to be categorized. Those older than you will have an answer to all of life’s problems; it’s probably not your answer. Those of us who have been there and done that will frequently be disappointed in how you do things; we’ll also get over it.
Sure, wear sunscreen. Be humble and kind. Eat your vegetables. Be courteous and look for the best in other people. Remember to be grateful for the gifts of your life and don’t forget your Maker – it is easy to do early on. Yes, you need to work hard, be accountable, and follow through. But you already know all of that. Even without all of the answers, you’ve made it this far and you are perfectly equipped to make it much farther. You will experience loss, setbacks, and doubt. It’s OK, we all do. You don’t need substances to cope with these things; look for others to hold your hand, trust yourself, and seek God for support. We all need some help every now and then.
From where I sit. The future looks good. In fact, we just might find a generation willing to clean up some messes we’ve made over time. Perhaps this year’s graduates will be the ones to cure some of our greatest ills. You are graduating in the Land of Opportunity. I know, I know. Many will tell you that opportunities are fading, things are unfair, and that you are being shorted that to which you are entitled. Ignore them. The world owes you nothing but offers you everything. Incredible possibilities lie before you, if you seek them out. Amazing opportunities exist, if you dare to believe. Wonderful times lie ahead, if you choose to let them happen. Nothing is certain but anything is possible.
So, march forth. Carpe Diem. Don’t let a bunch of old people categorize you. Be better than we expect and more than we imagine. Learn from the past but don’t be defined by it. In most cases, we’ve done the best we could for you. From here, you’ll have to figure the rest out. And that’s how it should be. When trouble finds you, we’ll do our best to help, but you’ve already got all you need. For my fellow parents: just keep loving those graduates and allow them to fail. They’ll find their path; sometimes in ways we can’t imagine. And that’s OK.