By Jackson Pruett
The Cullman Times
Ms. Butler, Mr. Miller, faculty and staff, parents, family, and my fellow classmates of the class of 2011:
Tonight we gather in this gymnasium to celebrate and commemorate the 82nd graduating class of Holly Pond High School. As President of the class of 2011, I have the privilege of addressing you to share a few thoughts, and on behalf of my classmates, express our gratitude to all those who have made our collective success possible.
Some thirteen years ago, this journey began, and so too, this trek of single file lines, lunchroom meals, and locker combinations. Along the way, we managed to learn a few things, make some friends, and teach one another lessons to last a lifetime. So many deserve the thanks of my classmates: teachers, counselors, staff and administration, and most importantly, the parents and guardians whose love and guidance have brought us to this moment. I cannot adequately express my appreciation to my family, whose unwavering support has been a constant in my life. Big words or long sentences simply will not do, so I offer just two words for them. Thank you.
As is common with an event like this, most student speakers take the opportunity to embark on a long-winded commentary celebrating what was and what is to be of their particular class. While perhaps less appropriate, I offer something out of the ordinary. Tonight I issue a challenge to my classmates, and more broadly, to the generation for which we belong.
Each individual here is a member of a generation. From the oldest grandparent to the smallest infant, we were each born into an era to call our own. Social scientists have identified four generational types: the idealists, the “reactives”, the artists, and the heroes. This unique cross between history and science gives us great insight into how we define our country and ourselves. These generations follow a cycle, each filling a void. As one generation of Americans passes, another raises up and leads the charge. So who are we? What do you call the seniors of 2011? We are Millenials. Generational scientists say that those born from 1981 to 2001 are members of the hero archetype, the first born Americans to be part of that group since our grandparents and great-grandparents were born prior to the great depression. We remember the hero generation for their collective coming-of-age triumphs, principal activities involving community, affluence, and technology. The hero’s generation members are good youth, grand, powerful, and confident. We affectedly refer to the last hero’s archetype to be born as “the greatest generation”. Indeed, this group of Americans survived an economic depression, stormed the beaches of Normandy, defeated the Japanese at Okinawa, and came home to create tremendous economic prosperity. So I ask the question: will our generation be the next “greatest generation?”
You parents probably do not think much of this theory, considering the status of your child’s history grade or the cleanliness of their bedroom. Indeed, many predict an awful future for the world because of our generation’s entitlement nature and technological dependence. The news media and, yes, many of you take every opportunity to talk about “kids these days”. Let me offer a rebuttal to this. Youth crime rates in this country have fallen at their fastest rate in the last 18 years since being recorded in 1948-the same for youth drug rates. Students are scoring higher on the SAT and ACT than ever before and more young people are going to college than ever. Millions of students volunteer everyday for community projects. From raising awareness to a humanitarian crisis in Africa to organizing a blood drive, our generation is more active than any before. We are also connected. In one millisecond, we can connect with friends next door or strangers across the globe, all with the click of a mouse. We value diversity and gain strength from it. We are team oriented and work for the common good. We look to each other to solve our most serious problems.
History and science tells us that we are the next generation of heroes. However, can we rise to the challenge? Can we define America, as we know it, as a place of opportunity and freedom for all mankind? We face challenges never before seen: trillions in debt, international terrorism, an energy crisis, and a world that is growing in population and economic might. Many would call it a scary situation, and stand back from the proposition-but that is not us. We will face challenges head on, fight for what we believe in, and carry on the spirit of this great country. That is who we are. We are Americans.
I do not need a scientific theory to tell me that my generation is special. I see it in the eyes of army recruits, leaving their families for an unknown battlefield, not knowing their fate. I see it in teenage volunteers, helping their neighbors, after a devastating tornado. I saw it in the 3rd grade, when our nation was attacked, and behind these walls we were frightened because we were young and did not understand how hate could be so powerful. Our entire lives, we watched history from behind these walls. We saw and waited, for our generation to get a shot at it. Now it is happening-the start of something new-a bright sun of a new generation rising in the east as a western star falls from the sky. It is our time, so let’s go get’em!