Editorial: Words of Wisdom at Graduation Time

Parents realize that the teen years are not known for the efficacy of shared wisdom. The ROA — or Return on Advice — is small. Nevertheless, adults are making high school graduates squirm under caps and gowns this week as the voices of authority seize one last chance to break through.

We are not sure the graduates are fully listening as they are told … you’ve only just begun … on the road less traveled by … to follow your dreams and passions ... and your heart … as you change the world … staying true to yourself … and your ideals … and that makes all the difference ...

And yet, to abstain from giving advice, whether cliches or wisdom, is impossible, because high school graduation is a pivotal life moment. When teenagers walk to receive their diplomas they are stepping toward a wide-open future — it could be college or a job in a distant city.

A parent shares in the feeling that there are no limits, but may also be visited by the past. The graduation march plays, but some hear stirrings of The Wheels on the Bus nursery rhyme from years ago. So farewell to the baby brought home from the hospital, farewell to the toddler who mashed peas into mush, farewell to Little League, dance recitals, high school playoffs and proms. A child entered school years ago, but an adult leaves the graduation stage, and that adult won’t be at home here in quite the same way anymore. This is especially true in the Upper Valley, since so many college graduates leave for bigger cities and bigger opportunities.

There is so much to tell them before they go. College is no longer the lark it once seemed, with education loans a burden, binge drinking a worry, and the number of sexual assaults a scandal. Our economy is producing too few good jobs for young workers, and the political parties are far apart on solutions.

And yet, at this moment in a young life, hope prevails. It is fine to tell graduates that they can change the world — that’s a buoyant place to start. They will need all the hard work, kindness, grit and luck they can muster. The trick, of course, is to avoid changing the world for the worse.

We urge graduates to indulge adults and at least pretend they will take their sage advice into account. Decades hence, they may realize that much of it was correct, and they will be the ones passing it on to another generation of young people who won’t seem to be listening.

And as the years pass, call home, regularly. Your parents have more to say to you.