Congratulations graduates, you face a new choice


Dear graduates:


This month, you take an important step in your lives. You deserve a pat on the back, as do the parents, guardians, teachers, coaches and mentors who helped you to this point.

One of the reasons our nation has always placed a premium on education is that a well-educated citizenry is necessary if democracy is to work.

But those who have given you this education were not likely thinking in such sweeping terms as they helped you along.

They did it because they care about you. They want you to know and to have and to be all the things that are required for a good life.

But, as Socrates asked long ago: “What is a good life?”

Graduations are among the moments in life when it is customary to take stock, to look around and reflect on where you have been and where you are going.

Taking time to reflect helps you make good choices. And one of the things you might take a moment to reflect on is how much the lives of your generation have been tied up with electronics.

Recently, asked to give advice to graduates, the former news anchor Tom Brokaw said, “Life is not a virtual experience.”

The Atlantic Monthly, one of our nation’s most storied magazines, poses the following question on its current cover: “Is Google making us stupid?”

Why are media types saying such things?

Are the dinosaurs of television and print just afraid for their jobs?

They may be, but they are right to point out that the world now offers opportunities to escape reality that are powerful and captivating.

It is possible that you and your generation will become too reliant upon them.

Yours is the generation that first saw television introduced to the back seats of the minivans and SUVs you were carted around in.

Your generation came of age with the cell phone, which has now become a portable entertainment center.

You may not believe this, but there was a time when gas station pumps had no TVs on top.

Of course, it would be silly to pretend that all this virtual reality is a “problem.” No, quite the contrary. Lots of good comes from these new communications tools.

But they do present you with a choice that earlier generations did not have to face: to focus on virtual realities or on wider reality.

As you move forward, finish your education and start on careers and families you will find – as many of you probably already have - that life offers joys that no electronics can match.

But life also offers hardships.

It is the dynamic mix of joys and hardships that makes us human.

Remember to step away from the many screens in your life long enough to be fully human. Brokaw is right. Life isn’t a virtual experience. But it is worth experiencing.