Are today’s graduates ready to lead?

Mike KnaakEditorial, Opinion, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

High school students graduating this month may have read Charles Dickens’ words from “A Tale of Two Cities” in a literature class. Now the words may have more meaning.

Graduation marks the transition to adulthood. Recent graduates will attend college, enter the workplace or join the military – all options that take them away from the adults who have guided them.

The choices these new adults make will determine if these indeed are the best of times.

While the immediate choices of college and careers are exciting, the choices about how to behave in a civil society are crucial.

Millennials are expected to overtake baby boomers in the population in 2019 as their numbers swell to 73 million and boomers decline to 72 million. This year’s high school seniors are at the tail end of that generation, which because of its numbers, will dictate the future.

Will today’s graduates be swayed by the voices of anger, fear, resentment and the politics of grievance? Will they embrace diversity and globalization?

The internet and social media opened the windows to friends and ideas from around the world. Will today’s graduates put down the screen, step away from the keyboard and actually visit nations around the globe and experience new culures?

Every higher-education experience should include at least a semester abroad.

Voters of all ages must help today’s students with a renewed effort to fund public higher education so the price of college doesn’t become a lifelong burden.

In the workplace, will today’s new employees reject discriminatory traditions? Will the high-tech jobs that offer so much promise for innovation continue to be dominated by men who also create a hostile culture for women?

In the community, will today’s new citizens insist on public policies that embrace the contributions of immigrants, respect diverse lifestyles and listen to dissenting opinions even when the message is uncomfortable?

Opinion polls reveal today’s new adults support these ideals, but will they really take action to back up their opinions?

Some recent events show they are ready to lead.

Hundreds of thousands of young people participated in March for Our Lives events this spring. Young women fearlessly are speaking out in the #MeToo movement.

Elections are next and there’s mixed evidence of how active young people will be.  According to the United States Elections Project, only about 20 percent of voters under 30 cast ballots in midterm elections. But the “New York Times” reported last week that the pace of new-voter registrations among young people in crucial states is accelerating.

The top item on the To Do list should be registering to vote. If college, work or military service takes you away from home, either register in your new home or take the effort to file an absentee ballot.

Voting turns choices into policies that shape the future.

The plot for Dickens’ historical novel centers on the years leading up to the French Revolution. After the first two lines, what Dickens wrote next deserves more attention even though it is not quoted as often: “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”

Author: Mike Knaak

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