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Graduating Into the ‘Brave New World’

Last Sunday, our church honored graduating seniors from the Madison area. It used to be called “Baccalaureate Sunday”, but this was more simply called “Graduate Recognition Sunday”. I guess “baccalaureate” dates to more formal times than these.

The commemoration was simple, but moving. As each graduate’s name and picture came across the screen, parents stood and waited for their senior to find them in the congregation and give them a rose. There were a lot of crying mamas, and more than a few teary-eyed dads.

Every graduation, we seem to know more and more friends who are parents of graduates. I am not sure how that is happening, since we could not possibly be getting that old.

Or, maybe we are. My own high school graduation happened 25 years ago this month. Walking across the football field at Moss Point High in 1988, I was mainly upset about having my whole life upset. After one last summer, I was heading six hours north to Ole Miss. I could not figure out what life held for me, even though I was supposed to be the smart kid in the class.

I was not even sure what the wilds of North Mississippi would be like.

Turns out, life has had a lot in store, mostly good things beyond my wildest ideas that graduation night. I hope it does for the Class of 2013, too.

The year I graduated was a year of change. (It seems like most years are.) Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher led the free world. And half the world was not free, but was instead dominated by the Soviet Union. We were the last of the Cold War generations. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, and the USSR itself came down shortly thereafter. Turns out totalitarian domination took a lot of resources and was really hard to maintain. Against Reagan and Thatcher’s freedom, capitalism, and democracy, turns out there was no contest.

The Class of 2013 never knew the Cold War. It is history to them, as abstract as World War II or the Civil War. They likely have no real memory of any Presidents other than George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Graduates: Our polarized politics are relatively recent, and not inevitable. America has so much more potential than what you have seen. Help change it.

In 1988, Google was a few years off. But I remember getting my first CD. They were sold as indestructible compared to cassettes, which in turn were an innovation over 8-tracks. Google them.

I remember when I got my first email address. They issued one when I arrived at Yale Law School. I was not sure what to do with it, or what good it was, since nobody else I knew had one. That was 1992.

And I drove to Connecticut and back, several times, with no phone in the car. In fact, shortly after I got my first cell phone in the fall of 2001, I dropped it in a puddle at the Ole Miss/Alabama game. Then I had my first experience with trying to resuscitate an electronic device that had shorted out.

We have lots more gadgets (and more gadget-anxieties) today than 25 years ago.

I’m not sure it’s all been “progress” since I graduated, though. We went from the “peace dividend” after the Cold War to 9/11 pretty quickly. After the USSR’s disintegration, the world remained a chaotic and dangerous place.

The Class of 2013 enters a world where social change is happening at breakneck speed. I recall when I first heard the idea of “gay marriage” (also when at Yale). At the time, I thought it to be such a fringe idea that it would never merit serious consideration. As these grads walk, the Supreme Court is very seriously considering imposing gay marriage as the law of the land.

Economic stagnation, spiraling debt, Obamacare, terrorist attacks (and rampant political correctness that does not allow for events even to be called what they are): it’s enough to scare a graduate of any class. As Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing new under the sun, but it sure seems like the Class of 2013’s America is adrift in uncharted waters.

Yet, graduation time brings optimism and renewal. There is something nostalgic and expectant, at the same time. Fresh troops and refreshed morale. A new generation is on its way to help.

Congratulations, Class of 2013. The world is waiting on you. And, really, we need all the help we can get.

Cory T. Wilson is a Madison attorney with Heidelberg Steinberger Colmer & Burrow, P.A. Follow Cory on Twitter, @CoryWilsonMS, or email cory@corywilson.ms.

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