On Sailing Out into the World
Weve known you much of your life. Weve seen the rapt concentration of your early years, what educator Maria Montessori called the absorbent age.
We watched it blossom into creativity and accomplishment until it seems to us that you have the will to do whatever you set your heart on.
Thats the good news, because those are the skills you are going to need to sail into choppy waters, which is what you may find after graduating from high school or college this year.
In this, our annual letter to new graduates, we begin by advising you that approaching your work with play and delight will keep it and you fresh year after year.
After your playful spirit, the next most-helpful quality youll bring with you into the world is its opposite: the endurance youve learned by doing the things you like least, like studying for a test or cleaning your room.
Our next message is this: Dont be afraid of that big world youre stepping into.
We have just fought a war, one that began and may well continue in our own land. You are at the front of the first American generation to live under terror alerts. Hearing it repeated that the world is full of evil and danger, your reaction might well be to set your horizons lower and closer to home.
Be careful, of course, wherever you are. But dont be too afraid to have adventures in faraway places. It may be a scary world, but it is a world full of wonders that can never be experienced if youre too worried about bombs or bugs to sail into it.
Or if you give up easily.
Another truth you may not suspect is that rich as this world is, you might not easily find your place in it. Resources are tight, our leaders tell us; youve probably heard your parents say the same thing. That means your next step may not be onto a magic carpet that flies you to the job or college of your dreams. Instead of starting at the top, where youve finally climbed as seniors, you could well find closed doors and frustration.
Knock again. Ask your grandparents what it means to work your way up, and follow their example. The key to succeeding in the world is doing more than is expected even more than you expected.
And that piece of wisdom brings us to an aside were compelled to make this year, to your teachers.
Sending this years class into the world has been a demanding job, and we hope its been a joyful one. We know you deserve more, but we hope that money has not become the only reward for the work you do. We know youve taught your students the inspiration, determination and altruism that our troubled world needs from them.
So were troubled and were believers in organized labor when we read of teachers fighting their battles on the backs of students. A teacher threatening to charge students for writing letters of reference that help them move in to the world: Thats a bad lesson in priorities.
So graduate, our hope is that you (and your teachers, too) stay forever young, inspired by delight in what you do, because thats the quality that along with perseverance will see you through good times and bad.