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Xavier Smith: Dear class of 2017...

Xavier Smith • Updated May 24, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Dear Class of 2017, 

Congratulations on your accomplishment. You will graduate as some of the most tested and assessed high school students ever, but you’ve survived.

In the next few weeks and months, you’ll share final hugs with friends you’ve known as long as you can remember and form lifelong friendships with people you probably don’t know exist at the moment.

You’ll leave your nests and travel to places you couldn’t imagine. Some of you will go to college while others will enter the workforce, but know you have more opportunities to succeed than ever before. 

You’ve lived through some of the most troubling times in our nation’s history. Many of you lived through the September 11 terrorist attacks and the U.S. invasion of the Middle East in response before you started Kindergarten.

You’ve also lived through the economy crash of 2008 as the nation entered a recession, Hurricane Katrina and the death of Osama Bin Laden.

You’ve also witnessed some of the country’s greatest accomplishments before you entered high school – the iPhone’s introduction, LeBron James’ NBA debut and Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game, the launch of the social media age with Friendster and Facebook, the completion of the Human Genome Project, the rise of Google and more.

Bill Gates shared some thoughts last week with the 2017 college graduates on his blog, Gates Notes. There was an excerpt that I think applies to high school graduates, as well as college graduates.

“You know much more than I did when I was your age. Technology lets you see problems in ways my friends and I never could, and it empowers you to help in ways we never could. You can start fighting inequity sooner, whether it is in your own community or in a country halfway around the world,” Gates said.

As 2017 graduates, you already have a larger head start on changing the world than those who came before you. Through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and every other form of social media, you have the ability to see issues in your own school and neighborhood, as well as issues happening across the country. 

We’ve seen the dangers of social media, but your graduating class is more knowledgeable of social media and its impact than ever before and that power should not be used lightly. 

Gates also offered another helpful tidbit that I think is more important than anything previously stated.

“I had to learn to recognize and appreciate people’s different talents. The sooner you can do this, if you don’t already, the richer your life will be,” he said.

In a world that is changing daily, it is important to understand and accept that most people will not share the same thoughts as yourself and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Embrace differences and learn from those from different walks of life as yourself. Growth can’t come from people who always share the same thoughts as you.

Congratulations on your accomplishment and use your talents to change the world.

Xavier Smith is a staff writer for The Democrat. Email him at xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com and follow him on Twitter @wilsonnewswritr.

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