This summer I will attend my 50th high school graduation reunion. As someone that old, what on earth could I possibly tell a crowd of Wyoming high school or college graduates during their important time?
This is my annual column is pretty much what my speech would be if asked to speak at a high school graduation. Giving that speech is a lot of fun and I look forward to doing it. Here are some of my thoughts for graduates:
Is it possible that many of the great truths that you graduates have come to take for granted just are not true, after all? Let me share three examples:
First, you were told that loyalty to your boss or your employer was a total waste of time and a relic from your parents and grandparents’ generations.
Instead loyalty may be the most important factor going forward in getting and keeping that job that you covet. Do you remember the key component of the state of Wyoming’s official philosophy, called the Cowboy Code of Ethics? To me, the big one is “Ride for the Brand.”
Second, here in Wyoming energy is a big, big deal. You were told your entire lives that America would be relying on foreign energy imports forever. You were taught that our destiny, as a country, is to make Arab Sheiks rich as we continually import their oil.
Today we are a net energy exporting country. With Wyoming’s vast coal deposits, gigantic natural gas reserves and amazing new oil discoveries, we are helping the country send out more energy than we are importing. Amazing.
Third, you were told that manufacturing is dying in America and, no matter what you do, do not get into that dinosaur business. We expect everything of importance to be built in China. Surely the experience of Wal Mart and Apple Computer would verify this.
Surprise, the USA manufacturing sector is gigantic. At $1.84 trillion, if it were a country, it would be the 10th largest economy on the planet.
After turning these three truisms onto their heads, it sort of seems like much of what was drilled into you over your brief lifetime of about two decades was not as true as it was told to you.
So what happened?
Just when everything had a gloomy but predictable look to it, we find out that many assumed truths in the world really are upside down. What you thought was true is false. What was passé is back in fashion.
To a graduate sitting in a hot, crowded auditorium pondering that biggest of all questions: “What am I going to do?” well, these times can be times of opportunity just as easily as they can be times of despair.
And because of all the above, that is why I write.
This annual column to high school and college graduates is much like speeches given in person. It just seems like this is an important time to peer into our crystal ball and help you graduates in any way that I can.
I remember my high school graduation in 1964 back in Iowa. A future U. S. Senator predicted a long and gloomy Cold War with the Soviet Union (Russia) that could last a millennium. No one in that room would have believed the USSR would come crashing down just a generation later.
Today the national focus is on the economy. Our country is enduring massive debt and inflation is probably in our future. These factors could make getting and holding a good job look dismal.
But there are jobs out there, lots of them.
If you are a mess, then you have a problem. And probably what I am writing is not for you.
If you are a hard worker with wonderful work habits and good ethics, well, your future is bright.
You grads heading out into the world of new jobs need to be alert to trends in your chosen fields.
Employers are looking for good workers. And they are looking for good people. And most of them want to hire you for a long, long time. They are looking as hard for you as you are looking for them. Don’t give up too soon.
I see a future that is as bright as ever for the young person willing to work hard, make friends and perhaps, most of all, “keep learning” as you grow in your careers.
Good luck and Godspeed.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com.