What to say to inspire the young

In a few days time I will have the pleasure and honour of addressing a class of graduates as they go through their graduation. Whilst there is a part of me that is pleased to have this opportunity, it is also a rather daunting task.

For we live in a world where negativity is often the overriding emotion and where it is a glib comment to say that the best times were when we were young.

If one believes that then it becomes almost impossible to come up with something that motivates and encourages our young people as they go out into the world of work.

But, as I sat gazing at an empty screen searching for inspiration, I debated with myself the truth or falsehood of whether ours was the best time to be alive.

Sure our parents had endured the Second World War, but they had achieved by coming through it and rebuilding the family unit. Neighbourhoods were much closer together, brought about by their shared struggles.

Certainly, whilst I know that materially we may not have had much, life as a child seemed to be fun and the opportunities for a kid from a deprived area to reach all of the way to higher education already existed. That is something that I know all too well.

When it came to my own journey into adulthood life was also certainly fun even if we did not have the technological advances of today. We may have watched the first moon landing, but within the home the dishwasher was normally a family member and television ended at 10:30 pm with the National Anthem and a white dot fading into the TV tube.

Our children that made up the next generation also seem to have survived and flourished despite starting life before smartphones, social media and video calling services.

So as I stare at the screen it seems to me that, despite the standard blueprint that is put down by governments as the route through this thing called life, the human spirit is not content to simply conform.

Each generation sees advances in technology that simply confounds their elders but gives the new generation a technological superiority. All aspects of life move forward, if not always in the most desirable of ways.

But the thing that makes each generation look back in later years and think their era was the best is the human characteristic of grasping what they have and creating a good life out of it.

The blueprint may well produce the stability that nations and communities desire, but it is the creativity of the human spirit that refuses to be put in boxes; that looks at what is coming down the line and which takes the risks of leaving the blueprint.

My own life has been littered with opportunities that I have grasped whilst ignoring the accepted way to do things and which have given me such an enjoyable life.

If I look back then there were obviously low points, but looking back largely brings back the good things. My own father who fought in WW2 never talked about the bad parts of war, only the fun bits. Perhaps we all look back on the past with rose-tinted glasses.

I suppose that the reality is that those people graduating next week will also look back in several years time and think that their time was the best. If they do then they will effectively be saying not that it was the best, but that they made the best of their time.

To do that requires positivity, creativity and a willingness to take risks. In other words it requires losing the blueprint and being themselves. Perhaps that should be the message next week to those graduates

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