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Feature Stories

‘Parents, Students, Faculty and Honored Guests…’

With Long Island’s graduation season wrapped up, I’d like to offer my congratulations to all of the newly minted diploma-holders from high schools and colleges around the area.

And, like every adult any graduate encounters this time of year, I am full of advice. Granted, unsolicited advice, but that doesn’t stop official commencement speakers, so it won’t stop me. Here goes…

Let me preface my remarks by asking parents to hold their applause until I finish speaking; and graduates, kindly refrain from tossing your mortarboards into the air for the next few minutes.

It truly is an honor to speak before you today, as you students leave one defining part of your life and enter another that, at this point, may be quite undefined. To help you develop some structure as you venture forth into the future, here are five tips (if you like, you may call them “nuggets of wisdom”) you should keep in mind.

1. Understand that achievement and accolades will never come as easily again. Whether it’s high school or college, in four years, you shot from a social and academic embryo to a bona fide grownup with a state-certified diploma that attests to your mastery of things other than Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Add to this the awards, trophies and certificates you garnered, and who could be blamed for believing you’re a Mother Teresa/Derek Jeter/Albert Einstein-caliber member of society?

Well, after today, chances are it’s going to take years — perhaps decades — to reach that level of proficiency and appreciation in the outside world. It’s not just the vast pool of competitors, it’s also that school is designed to be all about you. The rest of the world isn’t.

2. Take any job you can get. If graduation means entering the job market, don’t be choosy. These days, you can’t be. Especially with that Art History, Journalism or Law degree. Even if it means wearing a beard net, get into the workforce. You might actually like it, and before you know it, you’re a post-modern Horatio Alger story. Or, you might hate it so much that you’ll focus on getting out and landing the one job in America that requires a B.A. in Comparative Limericks.

3. Try to stay on Long Island. It’s a great place, despite the high taxes and insane rents. Politicians and developers have been promising more rental units in the Island’s various “downtowns,” close to the railroad and priced specifically for young working people. While “a few” describes the current stock of this type of housing, communities such as Mineola, Hicksville and Farmingdale are moving in the right direction.

If you find yourself back with your parents, living in your old bedroom (or in the basement) for more than two years, it’s time to leave. Let’s hope those “downtown” rental units are built by then.

4. Never drive drunk or high, or while texting or holding a cellphone. Never.

5. Don’t believe that tomorrow will be like today. Recognize that things change very quickly. If you spent the past four years studying App development, understand that in two years, Apps might be as outdated as CB radios. I don’t know this, but if I were you, I’d be prepared for it. Stay flexible and up to date. Fifteen, 20 years from now, some aspect of your old programming skills could come in handy. They might help you better serve our robot masters.

In conclusion, no one has more control over your future than you do. You are living in the best country at the best time in history. Make the most of it. Go forth and prosper. Thank you.