Making money

Some of my favorite newspaper articles are stories on high school graduations.

(Okay, former colleagues … you can stop laughing now.)

I loved writing these things when I wrote for papers. It was tough to screw them up. All you really had to do was:

  • run the recorder for the commencement speech (they were only ever about 10 minutes)
  • jot down in your handy-dandy notebook the time in the track the speaker said something cool
  • when you got back to the office, tie these excerpts together
  • sprinkle in a few quotes from graduates, parents and – if you needed to make the story longer to fit the page – something from the valedictorian and/or salutatorian
  • put these below a catchy lead that captured the gist of the rest and you were set

The stories were always inspirational.

It’s no surprise, really, that I still read high school graduation stories from around the country.

However, since becoming a parent, I’ve become a little more critical of what commencement speakers are telling high school graduates.

I’ve asked myself, “Is this the message I’d want Kalista to hear?”

Case in point: a speaker last week who told students they had to work really hard to make a lot of money – and this should be their goal.

  • When I graduated in 2001, that made a lot of sense.

  • It probably makes a lot of sense to the class of 2012.

But I hope Kalista’s smarter than that.

Just one time, I’d like to hear a commencement speaker or teacher in general say …

 “You know what? Just be happy. Live your life and be happy. Everyone is miserable nowadays. If you can be happy, you’ll be achieving something most of us can‘t seem to master.”

It’s funny how things happen. I’ve made the least amount of money when I’m trying to make money and the most amount of money when I’m simply doing what I love. Educators in America, however, don’t seem to value the importance of happiness enough to actually encourage it – or teach it.

(Could it be that they themselves haven’t figured it out? Hmmm … )

Here’s another thing I’m starting to wonder about with schools: are they teaching students to embrace the spontaneity of modern society? More and more,

  • marriages are ending in divorce
  • mothers are abandoning their families
  • employers – thanks to the economy – are able to neglect familial obligations of workers

Things do not go as planned in today’s society.

Students should be learning to cling tight to the intangibles in their lives – namely, their families.

Are there commencement speeches for this?

How about end-of-year plaques that get a place in the school’s trophy case?


Instead, we seem to be continuing a trend of encouraging students to put careers before their families. Children grow up without fathers because of this. The children’s mothers take the families from the fathers, making the fathers miserable, ambitionless and, sooner or later, unemployed.

Italy, on the other hand, shuts down all business for at least an hour at lunchtime every day so workers can be with their families. Of course, Italy doesn’t have the power of the United States.

Is that what did this? Imperialism? Perhaps the engines of imperialism and capitalism are being fueled by our children. After all, it’s critical the United States wins everything … and children are major pawns in the fight to make sure that happens. We sell them on this by saying, “The world’s always going to remember you if you do something dazzling.”

While I base this on nothing factual, I believe it’s reasonable to assume few of us will be remembered by “the world” 100 years from now. Think about it. I bet there are no more than 1,000 notable search results for persons born on this date 100 years ago … out of however many million living at that time.

It is almost impossible to do something the world, as a whole, will always remember. Even courageous men who give their lives during times of war to save entire villages, teachers who move thousands of “at-risk” children to attend college and whoever invented Q-tips are eventually forgotten.

But families never forget their relatives – as long as those relatives were memorable. Perhaps if we really wanted to instill in children the importance of being remembered, we would stress – again – the need to love their families.

Family is everything. But it makes no money for our people. So family doesn’t get a shout-out at school – doing something to make money for our people gets a shout-out, even if that something we do makes us entirely miserable.

It’s all too clear.

I have been blessed with a child of moderate intelligence. She is reading and writing on a level two grades higher than she needs to be. While her success in math and whatever other “categories” in which she is tested isn’t as blatant, she is still ahead of the game.

  • She may be a writer someday
  • She may be a scientist, cleaning lady, receptionist or a doctor
  • Hell, she may even be an artist – I don’t care

What I care about, purely and simple, is that she is happy doing whatever she ends up doing and keeps her family first.

If she can do those things, I’ll know somebody along the way got through to her. The rest will fall into place.
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