As we congratulate our graduates and welcome them to the so-called “real world,” it’s fitting to examine what we owe them regarding their upcoming adventure.

The completion of high school, of course, is just the beginning of a journey that should involve stops at many communities along the way that offer lifelong learning. Higher education is one such stop, and it’s almost a given that one can grow smarter with each day in a post-secondary school.

Still, enthusiasm for learning makes a difference in how much new knowledge can be absorbed. We need to make sure our institutions of higher education have the resources that foster enthusiasm among faculty, staff and students at these institutions.

The workplace is another opportunity for higher education, lifelong learning, social and economic growth. We need to make sure there are enough opportunities for a good day’s pay for a good day’s work, that all the job creation we encourage offers pay commensurate with the skills our graduates bring to those jobs.

Higher education and the workplace shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum. People work or go to school eight or more hours a day, but they exist as community members and family members the other 16 hours. Our communities should have places, physical and otherwise, for constructive activities. It might be an adequate number of ballfields or tennis courts. It might be enough libraries or parks. There should be ample opportunity for our graduates to find places outside school and work to grow and just relieve the pressures accumulated through the other eight hours of the day.

We should make sure the places we live also offer graduates an opportunity to get smarter every day and have the opportunity to do more good every day. Being smart is one thing. Getting smart is another.

Our civil conversations around the dinner table or the television cable should give graduates confidence that the important issues are being discussed, the crucial questions are being answered and the right solutions are being implemented.

How do we give them this confidence? By participating in the civil discussion, by asking the crucial questions, but offering the right solutions; by making sure we’re making our communities strong and making them better, every day.

We owe them that much.

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