06/11/11 — Congratulations: OK, Class of 2011. You have your diplomas. Now, find your futures.

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Congratulations: OK, Class of 2011. You have your diplomas. Now, find your futures.

This message is for the newly minted graduates of the Class of 2011.

First off, congratulations.

The piece of paper you now hold in your hand --well, will hold in your hand soon -- puts you into an elite group of people who stuck it out and made it through high school. And that is not easy.

For some of you it was a chore to make it to this graduation day, while others were born students. No matter how you did it, you have achieved something and set your course in the right direction for the future.

Now, some advice, from some of us who have been around a while.

First off, your parents are right. You absolutely won't have your mother along with you when you are in college or when you get your first job.

In the real world, the buck stops with you. You determine what level of responsibility you are going to show and deal with the consequences based on that decision. Remember that college costs money and that you will get out of it what you demand -- and that you will pay the price if you choose to spend four years squandering that opportunity.

And if you are on the job, do the best job you can. No tardies, no irresponsibility, no day dreaming. Show your employer he or she made the right choice -- and then reap the benefits that come to those who work hard.

Second, be warned. Life is not easy. You will make mistakes as you make your way through the world. Be proud of them when they come from you stretching your wings. Learn from them when they are ill-advised or the result of forgetting that you are an adult now.

Third, understand, there is no Future Fairy.

Whatever you make of your life, you must do for yourself. There will be people who will help you along the way, but the bottom line is that you determine your own course. If you wait for someone to hand you fame, fortune or just a comfortable living doing something you love, forget it. You have to do out and earn that right. Hard work will get you there -- and the right choices.

And lastly, please, do not be in too big a hurry to grow up. This is the time to figure out who you are and what you believe. Decide for yourself. Don't be a sheep who merely parrots what everyone else is saying or doing. You were raised right. Remember those lessons your father, mother and grandparents -- or other adult who was important in your life -- taught you. They will keep you in good stead for decades. We promise.

And now, before you run off to your futures, look around you. There are people in your life who have made their primary goal your happiness and well-being.

Don't forget to thank them.

They will be your rocks for the rest of your life -- and your greatest treasures, no matter which path you take.

Now, get out there and make us proud. We know you will.

Published in Editorials on June 11, 2011 11:52 PM