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Empire Editorial: To the Class of 2014: We're sorry

Posted: May 25, 2014 - 12:07am

Congratulations, Class of 2014. As high school students across Southeast Alaska pick up their diplomas and flip their tassels, we’d like to offer a few words —

We’re sorry.

We don’t know if you’ve been following the news lately, but the world just kinda got away from us.

Somewhere between the War on Terror, global climate change and the impending collapse of the state’s oil-based economy, the “Check Engine” light came on and uh, then it just kind of died on us.

Please don’t be mad. We know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry.

Here’s the good news: You can fix it.

You have good parents, and you come from a good place. Southeast Alaska is a better place than most to grow up, and you’ve got the mental tools you need.

Tomorrow, you’ll wake up, and your life won’t be much different than it is now. If you stayed awake in history class, you’ll know that every generation faces its own problems. Some will be unique, others won’t be.

The problems we face now aren’t that much different from ones faced by graduates in yellowing yearbooks.

They fixed some of their problems but left others to you. It’s going to be up to you to deal with climate change, income inequality, a growing national debt and the ever-increasing likelihood social security won’t be around. Oh yeah, there’s also that one big pothole on Egan Drive.

At this point, you’re probably thinking “who cares?” and “so what?”

That’s fine. In time, you’ll come up with the answers to those two questions. That’s what a good education does — it doesn’t just answer the questions for you. It reminds you to stop and think about the possibility that maybe the cars boxing you in at a stoplight aren’t the problem; it might be you who’s the problem for the drivers in those cars.

From their point of view, you could be the one keeping them from turning left, or right, or moving down the highway.

When you swear at an SUV blocking your way, you don’t know if its driver has had a bad day at work and doesn’t normally drive like this — or if his kid is sick and he’s just trying to get home as quickly as possible.

A good education stops you from swearing and reminds you that there are other points of view, and solving a problem may be as easy as using what you already know and acting on it.

You may already have the solution to climate change in your head — but don’t yet know that you know.

Whether you go off to college or trade school, get a job or join the military, keep learning and keep trying to solve problems.

We don’t know about your generation yet — you’ve spent a little too much time texting instead of talking for us to really get to know each other — but we’re curious to see what you come up with once you set your smartphones aside and dive into the non-pixilated world.

Please don’t wait too long. We need all the help we can get.

• Empire editorials are written by the Juneau Empire’s editorial board. Members include Publisher Rustan Burton, rustan.burton@juneauempire.com; Director of Audience Abby Lowell, abby.lowell@juneauempire.com; Managing Editor Charles L. Westmoreland, charles.westmoreland@juneauempire.com; and Asst. Editor James Brooks, james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

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