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Belief in the young generation

With the recent public discussions regarding doubt in what those termed “millennials,” or young adults, have to offer, I’d like to put forth the following abbreviated remarks I offered to students at Buckingham County High School on Thursday, May 3, during an academic awards ceremony.

I express deep gratitude for your having me here tonight, returning from whence I came, affording me the special opportunity to share with you the fruits of your hard work in your studies.

Being among you, the students, and seeing your innovation, success and vigor gives me hope for what our collective future has in store for our community, our state and our nation, for you all will makeup our future teachers, farmers, IT professionals, lawyers, carpenters, nurses, firefighters, politicians and entrepreneurs.

I, and many of you soon to be fellow Buckingham County High School graduates and our teachers, believe without a doubt the four years you spend or have spent within these walls will have a large impact in where you go from here and in your success once you turn your tassels — and this applies to you freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Whether you wish to become a welder, an engineer, a scientist, a chef, a mechanic or the president of the United States — and let me stress that each is as important as the other in respects to dignity, pride and purpose — your actions or lack of actions during your time here serves as a major determining factor in your success.

No matter what award you receive, be proud of it. These awards, I submit, should not serve as signs indicating the end of the road for your respective course of study, but should serve as a challenge to your learning prowess and a signal to go even further for greater success.

Many of you, including me, are often titled with the term “millennial,” or being members of Generation Y.

Recently, the New York Post published a headline, stating, “Not even cancer risks stop millennials from outdoor tanning.”

There’s a much-shared video on Facebook that features a young woman, about your age, in a job interview. Though staged and mock, it includes a woman on her cellphone, offering very simple, childlike answers to stern questions from an older gentleman without a cellphone, seeming to portray people who share this age label — and age group — as unintelligent or idiotic.

I often hear my older friends remark that without our cell phones, people our age would be lost. Without Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, our worlds would collapse. Without texting someone, we couldn’t survive.

It seems to me that more and more frequently we are letting other people define who we are.

What I am about to say is of application to young people, Baby Boomers, members of the Greatest Generation, and so on.

But, because I seek to talk directly to you students tonight, I say do not let anyone — no matter how important they are, how powerful they are, how loud they are or how aggressive they are — define who you are and what you stand for.

There is only one mortal on this planet who has the power to do that. That person is you.

You have the power to harness opportunity.

You have the power to make a bold difference — whether in your life, or another’s.

You have a power that no other generation before you has ever had, and that’s the power of instant knowledge and communication.

With great power comes even greater responsibility. As young citizen leaders, we will one day soon be viewed upon, as I mentioned earlier, to take the torch of success and opportunity, not only for ourselves, but for the generations to come, and run with it toward risk and the unknown.

And I’m not saying we do it alone, without much prayer and advice, guidance and the advantage of history from those who’ve come before us.

If any American doubts that someone your age cannot face challenges such as these, on scales of their community, their state, region or nation — let them come here.

For I believe you have the ability, the knowledge, the means, the skills, the fortitude and the courage to answer the calls as they come, no matter how difficult, how complicated, how sensitive or how crucial.

Thank you.

JORDAN MILES is a native of Buckingham County. His email address is thomas.jordan.miles@gmail.com.