THE LONG VIEW: Graduates should take next step with confidence

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Esteemed faculty and administrators, proud family members and friends, and Class of 2015, let us acknowledge a tremendous achievement for all of you: either you have graduated, or you have pushed, pleaded, and cajoled your student to graduate. Congratulations to everyone.

I am honored to speak to you today. The expectation is that I will offer guidance on your bright futures. But I suspect most of you have heard plenty of advice already; any suggestions I make, no matter how wise, will likely fall on ears both deaf and impatient.

Esteemed faculty and administrators, proud family members and friends, and Class of 2015, let us acknowledge a tremendous achievement for all of you: either you have graduated, or you have pushed, pleaded, and cajoled your student to graduate. Congratulations to everyone.

I am honored to speak to you today. The expectation is that I will offer guidance on your bright futures. But I suspect most of you have heard plenty of advice already; any suggestions I make, no matter how wise, will likely fall on ears both deaf and impatient.

But that has never before stopped me from flapping my gums, so here you go.

As you leave academia and head for promising tomorrows, the world you inherit is particularly plagued by fear. Keep in mind, a million brilliant minds are cultivating your anxiety every day.

In our consumer culture, fear is a supreme motivator.  Advertisers teach us to worry about most everything. Will the smell of our bodies offend? Are our teeth adequately white? Is there too much hair on our bodies? Is there not enough hair on our heads? Do our shoes, clothing, or makeup look the way we’re told they should? Does this outfit make our butts look big?

As you pursue your careers, how often will your conditioning encourage you to fret about whether you are doing as well as your peers? Will your house be big or fancy enough to impress your family and friends?  Are you keeping up with the neighbors?

Will the vehicle you drive truly reflect your personality and personal success? Can you afford to give your loved ones the opportunities you’ve been told they should have? Will you have saved enough for retirement? (And will you have paid sufficient fees to the people who want you to worry about your retirement?)

Political tactics are all about fear. Candidates cultivate boogeymen with which they drive us to the polls. Islamic fanatics, corporate oligarchs, conservative bigots, America-hating liberals, China or Russia or Iran or North Korea – which party will best protect you from the many imaginary monsters in our national closet?

Please understand, there are things to be genuinely frightened of. Have I shown my loved ones how much I care? Have I nurtured my humanity by reaching beyond my own needs to help someone else?  Do I make my neighborhood, my community, and my world a better place?

Society will never encourage you to be afraid of issues like that. Those kind of apprehensions are not encouraged, as there are too few dollars to be made and too little power to be grabbed when the populace addresses these meaningful, timeless concerns.

And so, graduates, the question for you today is, what will you let yourself to be scared of? Will you let your life be ruled by insecurities invented and fortified by those who stand to profit from your fear? Or will your life’s energy be spent pursuing something real?

You are embarking on the next leg of life’s education, graduates. Go forth, and do not be afraid.

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com