When the class of 2018 looks back years from now on the months leading up to graduation day and all that has transpired in the time that followed, the members might find themselves answering a multiple-choice question: What big challenge of the day did I rise to meet?
The answer to any one of these may seem daunting. After all, what can a 17- or 18-year-old do? What can a bunch of students do?
More than you or they might think.
Given today's headlines, they certainly should feel motivated.
These young people grew up living the slogan "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." They know that the world's resources are limited. Electric and low-emission vehicles are part of their lives.
They understand destruction of nature. Many of them grew up giving their precious pennies, quarters and dollars to save the rainforests.
They've seen weather systems become more severe and experienced hotter summers almost every year of their lives. Carbon footprint, climate change, global warming, ecosystem and greenhouse effect are part of their everyday vocabulary. But so are renewable resource, environmentally friendly, sustainability and waste reduction.
They know every little bit helps.
Their daily world is a diverse one. They have come of age when society is learning the key distinction between equity and equality, two strategies we must employ to increase fairness. These high school students are teaching us that equality is treating everyone the same, but the equally important concept of equity means giving everyone opportunity to have what they need to be successful.
Even before receiving their diplomas and venturing into the "real world," classmates of 2018 have led big-picture discussions on economics, academics, race, faith, gender and more because these are their reality.
For example, many have embraced the #MeToo movement out of hope for others and out of necessity for themselves. #MeToo not only gives women who had been silenced a chance to speak out about sexual harassment, but also gives men and women a platform to examine their behavior and to commit to that old-fashioned Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.
The world awaiting 2018 high school graduates also needs peacemakers and peacekeepers. Perhaps thanks to social media, conflict is at the forefront at local, state, national and international levels in words and deeds.
Safety is among these graduates' primary concerns, to no surprise when you consider they have grown up surrounded by talk of gun control and school violence. No doubt some will fight that battle. Others will enter the military or choose law enforcement. Still more may commit to strengthening their community and healing their world through service, a faith-based calling, a career in medicine or the classroom.
We congratulate area graduates. We acknowledge and applaud their efforts to date and we urge them to identify the challenges, to work hard and to maximize the opportunities life presents them.
Then comes the day when they have an opportunity to answer that multiple choice question, they can check with satisfaction a) environment, b) equality, c) conflict climate change or ideally d) all of the above — and more.