OK, so you’re graduating.
It’s of course a huge day in your yet young life, and one that you should be proud to have accomplished. Certainly, I want you to know that your Mom and I are proud of you for having gotten here, and I want, in a fatherly way, to advise you on what you’re going to find of the far side of this milestone.
The first thing you’re going to find is that you’re the same person, that you always were. I know that might come as a bit of a shock to you, or perhaps even a disappointment, so I thought to get that out in the open, right off. This might not make sense to you right now, but given a few years, it will. We, many of us, spend our childhoods thinking that some milestone will change us, like someone’s tapped us on the bean with a magic wand. … Presto-chango, you’re an adult. Well, it’s not quite that straightforward a process.
 I once wrote that at our core, we’re still, and always, the same scared little 12 year old we have always been. By that I mean, there’s always the self-doubts that drive us, and they never go away. They keep us questioning ourselves, and our actions…. Do I really want to do this? Do I really not want to do that? That’s a good thing, actually, because it helps to keep us from doing really stupid stuff.
But inherent in that same 12 year old is a sense of wonder. Its important that you never lose that, because once you do, you really do start changing, and growing old. I wrote to this point a few Christmases ago.  That bit contains some lessons you should never forget.
The second thing I want you to know is that you already know right from wrong, and good from bad. I and your mom have taught you that much, hopefully by example. All the rest of it is mere application of those principles, and I know you’re capable of dealing with such matters out of hand.
The third thing I want you to know, in case this wasn’t made clear to you, this milestone doesn’t mark the end of your learning process, but the beginning. The last 12 years worth of schooling was about teaching you how to learn. Yes, you learned stuff along the way, but mostly this was about training your brain to adapt correctly to conditions you and I cannot yet see. You’ve gotten to this point because you’ve proven your ability there. And that brings me to…
The fourth thing…Change is part of life. Often as not that change is painful to accept. Usually, its harder if we don’t accept such change… but always remember, within that context, the right and wrong you know so well. Remember that those who tolerate everything stand for nothing. It comes down, my son, to what you will and will not stand for. You are defined by those choices.
The fifth thing is simple and yet broad in its implications. There will never be a better spokeman for you, than you. Don’t be waiting for someone to come along to express your desires, your needs, and your perceptions. While that statement is certainly applicable to the political, it also involves your personal life as well. If we hold, as I have for decades, now, that our politics is the expression of our mostly closely held beliefs, and needs, then this part of my writing here cannot be separated from the political, OR the personal. Don’t depend on government. Not only will government never be the perfect spokesman for you, but anything that government provides, can only be given to you after being taken from someone else. Right and wrong, again.
The sixth thing you need to know is that you need to cut yourself some slack. There are always disappointments in our lives… both the professional and the personal. Failed relationships, jobs, etc… places we zigged when we should have zagged. And often, some of the most painful disappointments are where we didn’t do anything wrong, at all. Trust me when I tell you that some situations will be hard to live with, and we all have them. Old jobs. Old relationships. Things we have done that we’re not particularly proud of. Avoid, if you can mulling these over for extended periods. These things will rip you up faster than a coral reef. You need to forgive yourself and others… and continue on.
And finally, know that your Mom and I love you… and that will never change. We think you’re a very special person. We know the good things you are capable of. We are here for you.
Congratulations on your graduation. Now, for the next step.