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Graduates face a new high tech world

This is the time of year for proms and graduations. Smiling faces are abundant this month as families and students have plenty of reason to celebrate.

My daughter graduated from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb on Saturday. Like other proud parents, it was a great day for our family. Along with taking photos and listening to the speakers at the ceremony, I could see many delighted graduates waving to parents and friends who gathered for the morning commencement program.

And when they received their diplomas, applause and some shrieks rang out as the graduates looked up and waved again. All the hours of study combined with arranging class schedules, finding places to live and working part-time jobs on campus has come to an end. Long-lasting friendships develop as they officially become alumni.

It was a reminder to me that kids graduating from colleges today are no different than students who received their degrees in the 1980s, 1970s and 1960s. The new graduates approached the world just like students of the past did — with some apprehension. But they also are confident that they will find the job of their choice. Times change and the economy will play a role at least initially in them finding opportunities.

But I still could not help but see the smiles on the faces of the graduates. They were all generally happy and their parents were proud of their accomplishments.

This is a reminder to me that these kids will go through tough times like everybody else. However, the U.S. is resilient and we can survive the problems the world faces today just like we did yesterday. These kids will go through it. My advice is to keep smiling and just do your best. In the long run that’s all you can do.

I recall listening sometimes to my parents, relatives and neighbors from generations who were born before World War II. The rapid changes that took place in the mid-1960s to the early 1970s were alarming to some of them. The civil rights movement and the anti-war protests against the war in Vietnam were frightening to some of them. Some of our neighbors were angry and others were confused.

Change tends to do that. We need time to develop perspective. The 1960s was a period of asking questions and not just accepting the status quo. We have witnessed rapid changes in this new century. We have gone through the horror of 9/11 followed by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden is dead but the rise of the Islamic State has posed a new threat. Reports have indicated that ISIS has been hampered and maybe on the run. But you get the feeling that even if that occurs, another band of fanatics will begin to organize and create more havoc.

Kids have more access to knowledge at their fingertips than I had in my college days. It was interesting to see family members in the stands during the graduation ceremonies staring at their cellphones from time to time. They were often sending texts to the graduating students below. And from time to time, I could see the students sending texts to family members.

We have seen so many advancements in technology in just the last five years that it is hard to keep up. I must admit that I sometimes fall in that category. However, for these students, this is the world they live in. They are very comfortable with cellphones, Wi-Fi, Facebook, Instagram and “binge watching” TV programs they have downloaded.

I thought it was a big deal when cable TV and VCRs became prevalent in the 1980s. When I attended Western Illinois University in Macomb in the mid-1970s, we also had cable. However, there was little if any original programming at the time. Cable TV was available at WIU so that you could see WGN-TV Channel 9 and perhaps a station from nearby Keokuk, Iowa and Quincy. This was such a rural area that without cable, WIU college kids might have three local channels at best.

Today, many college kids don’t even worry about cable. They stream programs or watch Netflix shows. They have the right idea. The price is definitely less expensive.

I salute the graduates of today who are entering a new, technological world. They will survive this election like we survived the 1960s and ‘70s. Whether it’s the Donald or Hillary leading us into the future, recent college graduates will indeed survive.

My advice is keep a sense of humor.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected]

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