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A message for graduates: Consider the possibilities

June 14, 2000

Richard A. "Doc" Keeler, for two years the principal of Jefferson County High School, last week submitted his resignation, which he said was unrelated to a controversial June 4 graduation speech, in which he urged the graduates to "choose God."

Though those two words were the speech's only reference to religion, it apparently offended those who believe the schools have no business advocating anything of a religious nature. To a large extent, we agree. But we do believe it's possible to suggest to high-school graduates that life has a side apart from academics and the world of work.

Even the class valedictorian would have to admit that it's not possible to know all the reasons why things happen. A mother with two children leaves the house at the same time each morning, but on one particular morning, a sleepy truck driver roars through a stop sign, killing all three. Do such things happen at random, or as a part of some pre-ordained design set in motion by the "big bang" many believe formed the universe?

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Young people don't have to be religious to think about such things, but they do have to be open-minded enough to accept the possibility that perhaps what they believe - or the conventional wisdom, if you will - is wrong. To be that open-minded, they do have to be a little bit humble, a little bit less certain that they are really so well-informed.

That attitude, in itself, is a good thing, because the world's dictators and even the little tyrants of the various government and business bureaucracies are nothing if not completely sure that they are right and the source of all knowledge.

As a result, the great ideas both need aren't offered to them because people are not only afraid to provide them, but also because they know these small-minded despots won't listen.

That's not what the world or this country needs; the school shootings that have horrified the nation were perpetrated by young people who felt they were not heard, or paid attention to. What the graduates need to become is people who will listen to their fellow citizens, and adults who will consider the possibility that they don't know it all.

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