Bryson Wendt receives a congratulatory hug during Wisconsin Valley Lutheran High School graduation ceremony class of 2013 in Mosinee.
To the class of 2013: As you graduate, you're hearing a lot of advice from people with a opinions about your generation. Here's our contribution:
Do not listen to the joyless scolds who think that you should not enjoy having a smartphone. The people who say texting is the root of all evil, or that there's something wrong with taking pictures of the things you're doing, or staying in contact with your friends.
We live in an age of technological wonders; we are all more connected to one another than ever before in human history. The devices we carry in our pockets allow us to access the entire world, the latest news from around the globe, culture and history and everything else. And the older generation wonders why young people enjoy checking their phones frequently?
All the same, your parents do have a point, and it is this: Sometimes, in this digital age, we all have a hard time being present in the moment. And sometimes it's important just to be able to be where you are, doing the thing you're doing - whether that's a task at work, an idea you're studying, or a conversation you're having. The thing about technology is not that it's rotting anyone's brains; it isn't. It's that with all this information and connection at our fingertips, we all need to remember, sometimes, to take the time to have the experience we are having right now.
And that is one of the most important pieces of advice we can offer to this year's graduating class: Take the time to appreciate where you are.
You know this, but not everyone does: High school students today are under huge pressure of a sort earlier generations were not, as they seek to groom themselves for college admissions. That pressure is real, but it can crowd out your ability to appreciate where you are and what you're doing now. That's a pattern that, if you are not careful, can repeat itself in college as you worry and prepare to get a job, and then again in the workplace as you worry and prepare for the next stage of career development.
That's no way to live. Preparation is important, of course. Just take time to stop and look around, sometimes.
Those of you who are entering college are beginning something unique, a place where you can dive into ideas that you've never encountered before, and challenge yourselves, and test yourselves. Those of you who are entering a technical college or vocational program are being given the opportunity to learn a trade and gain a profession that will challenge you and shape your life.
Maybe others of you plan to work or even take a break before entering any form of higher education, to volunteer in your community, or to serve your country in the armed services.
Each of these experiences is unique. It's its own reward.
Congratulations. By making it here today, you've achieved something special. This will not be the end of your journey - for most of you, it won't even be the end of your education. In today's economy, a high school diploma increasingly is a necessity for making your way in the world, but it's also not, for most people, sufficient. Whether you have a plan to immediately continue your education or not, chances are this is not the last time you'll see the inside of a classroom. That's a good thing. Lifelong learning not only will make it easier for you to adapt and evolve in a changing world, but it will also enrich your lives.
As you have grown up here in north central Wisconsin, you've had a whole community of people who thought about you, and tried to shape this community in ways that would be best for you. Your family and extended family, of course. But also your neighbors, family friends, teachers, church members, police officers and public servants, businesspeople and many more.
You might not have noticed. You might not have cared. But we did. And that's why every year's graduating class matters to us - to all of us.
You'll go places and your life will take twists and turns that you never anticipated. Wherever you go and whatever you do, keep us in your heart. Wausau helped to shape you, and we're proud of you.