Turn of the Tassel: Meet the Risk Takers of the Class of 2010 in a special multimedia presentation. For more profiles, see the special section in Sunday's print edition of The Times.
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Over the next few weeks, graduates from local high schools and colleges will take the scariest walk of their lives (at least until they get married).
As they head across that stage to receive a handshake and a diploma, their pride of accomplishment may well be offset by the fear of what comes next.
It is not an easy time to be starting out, to be sure. Whether they are headed to college, the military or into the working world, uncertainties will follow.
Those headed to college have a few more years to prepare for their lives to come, yet those attending public universities in Georgia face higher tuition as a result of this week's move by the Board of Regents.
Those headed into military service do so in an uncertain world where violence remains prevalent in Afghanistan and in Iraq, despite the drawdown of troops. As we've seen recently in New York, the threat of world terrorism has not disappeared since 2001, and our men and women in uniform remain on the front lines of that battle.
And those leaving college to head into professional lives know that our economy and job market remain wobbly. Even as our financial institutions recover from the recession of 2008-09, many businesses are continuing to run leaner, making it harder to find work in many fields.
Those not planning to continue their education will realize that it is hard to find a job of any sort today, and that a high school diploma alone may not be enough to secure a "good" position in work environments that have become increasingly sophisticated.
That's a lot of anxiety to deal with. So it's understandable that there is more than the usual amount of sweat beading up under those stuffy caps and gowns.
Well, rest easy, graduates. While we acknowledge the challenges you face, it is worth noting that they are nothing new for those beginning their adult lives.
Previous generations had to worry about the Great Depression, World War II and the Cold War threat. Your parents likely had to endure the counterculture of the '60s, Vietnam, the economic stress of the 1970s and a world changed rapidly by technology.
Is there ever an easy time to graduate from youth to adulthood? Probably not. It is always terrifying, for every generation. Yours just has a few new boogeymen waiting to pounce on you.
But rest assured, you'll do fine. Each generation has managed to find its own way amid challenges, and yours will as well. You have prepared well for this day, and you have the brains and determination to overcome whatever obstacles await you.
And the world needs you right now. When troubles mount, the sure cure for what ails us is a new generation of thinkers to provide solutions and wisdom. Your more experienced colleagues don't have all the answers and will look to you for fresh ideas.
Those of you headed to college have the opportunity to prepare for a changing world and a global economy before you wade into it. That hasn't been the case for generations of workers still trying to adapt on the fly. Those of you who have spent most of your lives texting, Facebooking, burning CDs and becoming at ease with technology will be able to hit the ground running and adjust to new technology without batting an eye.
For those hitting the job market, the key is persistence. You may not get your first choice of a job, or your second or third. But someone out there needs the skills you have to offer; stay diligent.
And as with other generations, for each challenge comes an opportunity. For instance, the world is eager to develop new energy sources to eventually replace our dirty and dangerous dependence on oil and coal. It will take well-trained scientists and engineers to make such new technology viable and affordable.
That is how the free market evolves: For each job that fades into antiquity, new positions rise in its place. Years ago, no one imagined earning a living as a webmaster, software engineer or video producer. As technology changes, so will the jobs.
And the challenges of today's world will require a full set of personal qualities to succeed. You need to be wise beyond your years, work harder and longer than anyone else and be willing to get off the deck and dust yourself off when difficulties strike.
In "Bull Durham," veteran catcher Crash Davis tells young pitcher Nuke LaLoosh "you gotta play this game with fear and arrogance." Meaning the right blend of confidence and humility, comfortable in your own skin, knowing you have the ability to go far, but still keenly aware of your limitations and flaws.
So strut and swagger, but not too much. Speak out at times, keep your mouth shut at others. Jump in when the time is right, yet hesitate when the voices in your head urge caution.
Yes, the world is scary. But the only thing worse than facing fear head-on is letting it keep you from pursuing your dreams. True regret stems from a failure to take action, not from taking action and failing. And through those occasional setbacks, you'll gain experience, knowledge and scar tissue that will make the next time easier.
So take that walk across the stage with pride. Throw your shoulders back, hold your head high, shake that hand firmly and grasp that diploma. You've worked hard to earn it, and you'll do more with it than just hang it on the wall.
You are the Class of 2010, the new generation for a new age. You will go far, you will accomplish much, and you will make life better for us all. Years from now, when you look back, you'll take pride in the fact that you rose to the occasion during difficult times. And you'll offer the same advice to the classes of 2020, 2030 and beyond.
Congratulations, graduates. Celebrate today, then get your game face on and go change the world.