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Advice to new graduates

Sometime this August, God willing, I will attend my 55th class reunion. On that spring day in 1959, 91 of my classmates and myself, cut our ties to the school that had been ours for 12 long years. We set our eyes and ambitions on carving out a niche for ourselves in this land we all call home. I am sure many of us had great expectations for our lives ahead but others just wanted to survive, content to live from day to day. Some of us had already grown our wings and others were still waiting for them to grow.

Not many years after graduation I heard John Lennon sing, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us and the world will be as one.” What John was singing was his hope that we could find it in our hearts to live in peace in this world. I think, that if any of my dreams could have come true, that would have been the one I wanted the most. As youngsters, we were born, and had grown up, in a world that experienced the worst war the world had ever known. The war to end all wars, it was called. Yet, I remember practicing in the fifties, 10 years later, hiding under our desks in the event of a nuclear holocaust. It hasn’t gotten any better since then, with the wars and unrest in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East. Knowing what I know now about mankind, greed and power, it never will. I hope and pray you can change that for your own sake.

As I look over the last 55 years of my own life, I sometimes think of Frank Sinatra’s song “My Way,” when he crooned, “Regrets, I’ve had a few but then again, too few to mention.” The way I, personally, have always felt, about regrets in my life, brings back another old saying, and that is, “Wherever you go — there you are and most likely that’s where you deserve to be.” Yes, we did control our own destiny, didn’t we? Outside of the constant world problems we seemed to have so little control over, the fickle finger of fate did reach out and touch us all in many ways. For the most part, we lost the generation that spawned us. Spouses, classmates, and even some of our own children are gone, but yet, here we are today, still carrying on. If life has taught us anything along the way, it’s that it may be a victory of sorts to still be here, but sometimes, as a survivor, a lonely one.

So we look back at over a half a century of living, and we say, “What was it we accomplished?” I’ll try to answer my own question. The goals we had after graduation aren’t different than the goals this year’s class of graduates has. College, jobs, marriage, and families — you might say, the building blocks of our society. The thing we never realized back then was to what extent we controlled our own destiny, for in the long run, you have to take what life gives you. You either make something good of it or let it be an anchor around your neck, dragging you down every step of the way. You need to take those dreams you have had all of your life, and at least try turning them into reality, because the other side of the coin is — when you stop dreaming, my friend, you stop living. For me, at least, my part in a productive society is fading fast and we need to pass the torch. To the next generation in charge, I only hope you will look back at what went wrong and learn from our mistakes. The lessons are free, for you see; we have already paid the price.

MIKE HOLST is a resident of Crosslake.

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