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Free advice to HS seniors
Jeff Whitten NEW
Jeff Whitten is managing editor of the Bryan County News and Coastal Courier, his favorite papers. - photo by File photo

From the rear lines of the pandemic, part 4.3:

High school graduation.

Lest you haven’t been paying attention, we’re in the middle of high school graduation season hereabouts. I know what you’re thinking. Again already?  Didn’t we just do this last year? 

We did. Apparently, it’s required every year about this time and goes on even during dire pandemics. And so thousands upon thousands of local/area kids will be getting their diplomas as school systems try to outdo one another in figuring out clever ways to deliver that parole document by another name to teens without violating whatever social distancing restrictions are still in place.  

In that regard, I’m thinking drones would work. Giant rotund drones painted up like Sean Hannity. 

Imagine swarms of Sean Hannity drones flying around and bumping into cars and scaring fish and liberals. Who cares if it impacts the rest of the world or screws up traffic for hours like graduations have been known to do? Our kids deserve the best. 

It’s what separates us from other smarter mammals, like manatees and mole crickets, who do not have graduations. One minute they’re in school, the next they’re done with it and moving on to more important stuff, like basking in warm intracoastal waters or screwing up what’s left of my lawn. 

Granted, this year’s class has had a lot to put up with, so they deserve whatever we can do to make their graduations as spectacular as possible. Fireworks, feasts, the Goodyear blimp, esport festivals. And I get it that for some, high school graduation is a big deal, like learning to drive or getting married or getting away with one’s first felony. 

What I’m a little hazy on is why. I didn’t go to my graduation, figuring I put in 12 years for that diploma and that was enough. In retrospect, I realized it was for my folks, not me, but at that time of my life like most teens I was all about Numero Uno, and Numero Uno was yours truly, the little short guy with the size 7-5/8 cranium. So I went fishing with some buddies if I remember right. 

Aside: I did relent and go to commencement ceremonies when I finally got a college degree, because my parents stayed on me and helped me become the first in my immediate and extended family to get a four year degree – which I’ve certainly put to good use screwing up newspapers. 

That aside, I’ve never gotten the need we have for ceremonies to mark this or that moment in our collective lives. Ribbon cuttings, ground breakings, graduations and all the other dog and pony shows we cook up to mark occasions aren’t the story. The story is what took place to get to that point, or what will take place to get somewhere else. The rest is just window dressing. 

Ah well. Enough of that. 

Being an editor – even of a weekly paper – is not without its dreaded responsibilities, one of which is that I feel compelled to address this latest crop of high school graduates and share the benefit of my experience and wisdom. 

First, nothing’s free. 

Even something you personally don’t have to pay for is going to cost somebody something. Your public school education – if you got one – came courtesy taxpayers. The clothes you wear, the shoes on your feet, the video games you play, the roads you ride around on, the food you eat, everything costs somebody something, and often it’s people who don’t even know you. The freedom you enjoy was paid for by the military, the peace and safety you hopefully know is a result of first responders standing watch 24-7. 

So, remember at some point you’re going to be expected to help pay it forward to the next generation of kids you’ll probably wish would stay out of your yard. 

Second, the day I write this the population on this planet is more than 7.8 billion human beings. I add this to note you’re being turned loose into a crowded world, so it’s a good idea to be polite and expect to have to stand in line. 

Third, us adults haven’t left future generations in good shape in a lot of ways, but the biggest problem looming for you and your kids and grandkids might be that of climate change and the wholesale extinction of species. People run around cutting down 100 year old trees like there’s no tomorrow to put up strip malls and cookie cutter houses that’ll look worn out in a decade. That’s not sustainable. 

Fourth, there are few things worse than snobs. Except loud rednecks and people who think everybody likes their music. They’re worse, but not by much. 

Finally, be nice to animals, kids and the elderly, not necessarily in that order. 

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