Each year, Chris Conley writes a commecement speech for high school graduates. He's never been invited as a commencement speaker, and probably never will be.
NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Congratulations, graduates.
For your years in high school you’ve had to listen to your teachers. They taught. You learned. For those of you who think your education ends today, I'm sorry to say you're mistaken.
Education never really stops. You’ll continue to learn, even if you don’t intend to. I graduated from college in 1991 and have not taken a course or added a degree since. And most of the lessons that I use most in my work and my day-to-day life are things that I’ve learned since then.
When my formal education ended, there were no fax machines. No cellphones. No internet. A personal computer cost the same as a new car. There is no way the education I received then could have anticipated the technology changes of today. I had to learn it afterwards. So will you. There is no way the education you are celebrating today can prepare you for the situations and skills you’ll need for the rest of your lifetime. The best we can do is teach you how to think. Teach you to be analytical. To instill in you the confidence that you can learn, so you can be adaptive and successful. A person whose education stops when they finish school is doomed.
At some time in your life you’ll have a job that doesn’t exist today. And the education you’ll need is unknown at this time. The first radio station I worked at had one computer. It scheduled our commercials and sent our billing statements to our sponsors. Today the building I work in has 116 computers. I counted. The broadcast studio I would out of has three. These changes were part of my post-education education. You will have many of those lessons ahead of you.
In the future, you will have more power than ever before at picking your teachers. Teaching, by definition, is an act of optimism. No one teaches someone something with the intent to fail. Teaching conveys knowledge. It is linked with the betterment of the individual and mankind. Teaching and learning implies that the future will be better than the present.
My warning to you is this: avoid negative people. They will corrupt your mind, and sap your spirit. Some people will tell you that our job market is lousy. Don’t believe them. Even at a time of 10-percent unemployment, 90-percent of our workforce has jobs. If I tell you that your mission is to be better than 1 out of every 10 people, I bet you would rise to that challenge. Finding work is more challenging today, but not impossible. Some people will tell you the economy stinks. It is not as good as we’d like it to be. Our Gross Domestic Product was 13.2-trillion dollars two years ago. It’s 12.9-trillion today. And it is growing again. At 12-point-9 trillion, there is still a tremendous amount of business being done in the U.S. Some of that money is yours, waiting for you to earn it and make your living. Will you not try as hard because the pot is about 1-and-a-half percent smaller? There are people who will tell you that the United States is a nation in decline. Do not believe them. Sure our national debt, our sometimes dysfunctional politics, our expensive foreign wars are concerns. But nations with the greatest freedoms are the nations with the best chances of overcoming the greatest challenges.
When you look at the landscape before you, do you see problems or opportunities? Do you see good or bad? Do you see success or failure? You can see both. It’s more about what you focus on, what you pursue, what you chance.
Your education is a powerful tool. Your freedoms and liberty are raw materials. And today you get to decide what kind of life you will build for yourself.
Congratulations to the class of 2010.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau