Michael Leppert: Dear graduates, it’s springtime for you. Make it last.

Keywords Forefront / Opinion

LeppertThere is no place I would rather be during the month of May than Indianapolis.

We have one big event here every year of which the world is well aware. What’s less well known is the list of associated events that make the entire month here so unique. The Greatest Spectacle in Racing aside, it is the community excitement about the festivities that makes it what it is.

But every spring season is special everywhere in some way.

For many college students “finishing” their academic careers, this spring will be remembered for their commencements. Commencement is a funny word. It is defined as the ceremony of conferring degrees at the end of an academic period. But the word also simply means “the beginning.”

Spring is often seen as the end of winter. Likewise, it can be seen as the start of everything else. The beginning part is the thing we should celebrate more, and less so the ending or the completion of this part of the annual journey.

The learning journey also should never end.

To this year’s graduates, who are rightfully excited about their graduation this month: I remember looking back on the end of my college career and being glad it was complete. What a mistake that perspective was! I hope none of you will make the same error.

While completion of this academic period might be a reason for a party and for recognition of a job well done, it should provide an experience fulfilling enough for those in the class to want it to continue. And 30 years after I finished my undergraduate degree, the reasons for that have become vivid. To people my age, the quest for a lifetime of learning is not just a trendy goal but a necessary approach for survival.

I graduated before the internet existed. There were no mobile phones, and when they arrived on the scene, only the filthy rich could afford them—for years. Compact discs were replacing cassette tapes on the music scene.

We did concerts great then, though. Exhibit one would be Live Aid. Kids, that was the concert depicted at the end of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I can remember being angry at non-English-speaking people in America and thinking it was their obligation to communicate with me exclusively on my terms. Now, if I had to pick one thing to know that I currently don’t, it would be a second language. Not knowing one is my shortcoming, not a shortcoming of those speaking in one.

“Climate change” was not a term. I was in grade school when the term “global warming” was first used. The modern “climate change” began to rise around the end of my undergraduate years. At least another decade passed before it became a legitimate political issue.

New graduates: Think of the things that shape every day of your life right now and then imagine them as if they are all a cassette tape. Many of them will not matter as much in the near future and getting by without them will require you to learn.

It is springtime for all of you—and early spring at that. Have a great party in your cap and gown this weekend, and when the hangover ends, buckle up for the rest of your life. If you live it well, the learning part of it won’t ever end.

Yes, I am a race fan. But the first race I went to was 30 years ago and things have changed dramatically in Speedway since then. I remember resisting many of those changes. But for the life of me, I now can’t remember why.•


Leppert is an author and governmental affairs consultant in Indianapolis. He writes at MichaelLeppert.com. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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