To the Class of 09, Don’t Worry, Be Happy

For over 35 years I have been sitting in the faculty section at my college commencements listening to the words of wisdom from a wise person given with great flourish to the future workers and taxpayers of this country. Most of these words of wisdom were predictable as “challenge”, “commitment”, “service” and “dreams” were used with great frequency.

This year’s commencement the wise person was decidedly less optimistic and grand in his words, since the class of 2009 may be headed to the unemployment line rather than to the head of the line. Thankfully, the wise person offered a few inspirational stories about giving back to the community and working for the common good, but many of the young grads knew in their heart of hearts that times would be tough and their dreams might be delayed if not destroyed.

But words that often are not mentioned at college commencements are resilience and spirit, the ability to dust oneself off after a fall or disappointment and move forward with an indomitable spirit. If anyone asked me to give the commencement speech that would be my theme – resilience during tough times and an indomitable spirit to move forward.

The class of 09 just might be the first in decades to find themselves behind the economic eight ball, knowing that opportunities will be slim and disappointments aplenty. Now I could bring out the old adage that with every disappointment there is a new avenue of opportunity, but I would rather refer back to the old song from the 90s – Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

Now telling a graduating class Don’t Worry, Be Happy doesn’t sound terribly profound, but it is the perfect antidote for the first class of the Great Recession. Sure times are tough and jobs are scarce, but why fill yourself with gloom and doom. Remember to live by the code of resilience and that indomitable spirit. All bad times pass, usually sooner rather than later, and there is no use filling yourself up with anxiety and self-doubt, when calmness and confidence will win the day.

So even though I am not at the podium looking out at a sea of anxious faces, to the class of 2009 I give you this wise advice, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, and remember – resilience and that indomitable spirit.

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