By Yvonne Sam
Across our nation, this is the traditional month for graduation ceremonies, and this year’s secondary, college and university graduates are entering a world, where their voices, influence and vision are desperately needed. A new reality is necessary, one where there is a youth-led movement to end the epidemic of gun and knife violence that now confronts our nation. Among young people, weapons’ violence have become the leading causes of death. However, the current mission calls for something more bold and transformative than gun control, alone.
Young people should lead the way, for they are the future. Notwithstanding all the changes and challenges in the world that today’s graduates will inherit, I do strongly believe that there is some enduring advice that we should ensure they hear, especially what we have learned, from the lessons that helped us to both succeed and survive.
So to the Class of 2022, here is some advice for you:
1. Please do not feel entitled to anything that you did not struggle for. Go ahead and take the initiative to create your own opportunity. No one owes you anything, so do not hang around waiting to be discovered. Do not assume a door is closed, push on it, and if it was closed yesterday, try it again today. Never cease learning and improving your mind.
- Set realistic goals and work, systematically, towards them. Avoid quick fixes, simplistic answers and easy gains, they will quickly disappear, like snow before the sun. During my youth, my father especially, would daily inquire if I had been given any homework by the teacher. Should NO be the response, my father would unhesitatingly say, “Well get your book out and assign yourself”. So do not wait around for your boss to direct you what to do. Neither do as little as you can to get by. Hard work, initiative and persistence are still the keys to success for most of us.
- Do not be afraid of taking risks. Do not be afraid of failing. It is the way to learn to do things right. It does not matter how many times you fall, what counts, and is of prime importance, is how many times you get up.
- Never harbor the thought that life is not worth living, or that you cannot make a difference. Do not give up, regardless of how difficult things get. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the American abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, said when you get into a “tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and the time that the tide will turn.”
- Be decent and fair, and surround yourself with others of similar ilk. Do not engage in any practice(s) intended to demean rather than enhance another human being.
- Never stop learning. Your school years may have come to a close, but there are always more opportunities to grow and learn. Be willing to learn from those, whom you meet. Whether it is your boss, co-workers or mentor. Learn from everything.
- Remember every moment is an opportunity to learn from everyone around you, no matter what their title may be. Pay attention when things go well, extra attention when they do not, and watch how people react to it.
- If you want to be around, then you must learn to control your tongue. Do not assume that a co-worker will not repeat your criticism(s) of your boss or colleagues. If asked about individuals in the workplace, you should reserve your opinion or be vague with your response(s). Keep your counsel. Sealed lips have been known to save ships.
- To the young, old school may not be cool, but it was certainly the mainstay of the Golden Rule. Treat everyone with respect. Greet everyone everyday, when you get into the workplace. Do not be so focused at getting ahead that it is business all the time. Treating people with humanity and integrity is most important.
- Arrive to work on time. Develop good time management habits from the get go.
So, good luck graduates. The world is yours. Go boldly forth and claim it. Success awaits.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is the Chair of the Rights and Freedom Committee at the Black Community Resource Centre. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.