Editor's Note: I am repeating a column from 2003, updated a bit for 2012, in honor of our graduates.
Friday is graduation night for the students at Mason High School. I've talked to several members of the class and they are all more than ready to be done with their high school days. They think!
Graduation means the end of one part of their lives, but hopefully not the end of learning.
For many of the graduates, Friday night will mean the beginning of a longer journey. Some will be leaving the confines of home for the first time. For others, it will be yet another move in their lives, and it probably will not be the last. For some, sadly, it means a reason to stop learning and to to freeze time.
Since returning to Mason, I've watched and listened to how local residents view those who choose to leave. Oddly enough, rather than celebrating their decision, there is a handful who sees their move as an abandonment. They truly believe that the only true Masonite is the one who cleaves tightly to the land, never leaves the county, and who never opens their minds to the ideas that wait in the outside world.
Whether pursuing further education, joining the military, or working away from this county, there are fewer and fewer young people who make such a decision. And that makes me very happy.
Though Mason is a wonderful place to live, it is connected to a very diverse, very big world. The images we see on television, in movies or in magazines can only give us a small idea of what really is out there awaiting exploration and discovery. It is not until they cross the horizon and see these things for themselves that they can ever truly start to understand their place in the world arena.
During the last couple of weeks, our letters section has been filling up with instances of racial bigotry, ignorance of world affairs and lack of tolerance and understanding for ideas that are different from our own. It is difficult, if not impossible, to hold such ideas and beliefs as irrefutable if you have actually put yourself in the middle of the world and been forced to use a new perspective to frame your thinking. As sociologists often point out, it is difficult to hate someone irrationally once you know them casually.
For many of our young graduates, returning to Mason is a goal. For others, the idea of ever living here again is unthinkable. I would hope that, as they head out into the world, they hold the values they have been raised with close to their hearts, but that they would allow their minds to remain open. We cannot truly brag about the supeiority of our way of life if it is never allowed to be tested, or to be compared to the lives of others. And, who knows, we may find out that some things we hold as sacred are not as important as we thought. And that's okay.
Part of our growing up involves establishing our own personalities and moral identities. To do that, we have to look at other cultures, other religions and other societies and decide what does and does not work. From that point, we assimilate, reject, and remold our own lives. Sometimes, we end up rejecting all that we knew as children, and we become a different person. Sometimes we continue to reject all the new that we encounter and we stay exactly the same person we were as youth. And sometimes, we become a person who has found a way to fit the different parts and aspects of their lives together into a new whole, and we grow up.
I wish for the class of 2012 all the luck, health and prosperity they may be able to reasonably enjoy. I wish for Mason that we start finding a way to bring some of these people home so that our community can benefit and prosper from the renewed vitality of a younger population. I wish for all of us that we start to grow up a bit and have as open a mind as the class of 2012 will when they head out into the world next week.
It’s all just my opinion, but it’s what I wish would happen.