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We have graduated into tomorrow

It’s that time of year again. Graduation ceremonies are being held in almost every town and city of the world. Proud families and friends clap as students from kindergarten to the graduate schools of higher educational institutions are acknowledged as having met their goals and are to be congratulated. It is our public declaration of launching the prepared into our world of the future.
I wonder as I sit on the stage of some of these graduations, what is the nature of the lives I see before me? The traditional black cap and gown we don for graduation ceremonies masks the variety of thinkers and doers poised here to take on the future. These students have been formed by different issues and resources than my generation. Are those young people before me thinking in multi-dimensional terms? Are they exploring options for careers in new fields I have never heard about? Are they using tools of communication that expand their reach in ways I can’t even imagine? Do they challenge the future because they can and do perceive threats my naive 20th century mind puts in the realm of slim possibilities? Graduates today have options not available to those who walked the stage for diplomas even as recent as two or three years ago.
When I observe the number of people who have shut themselves off from the events of those about them by plugging their ears with iPods and cell phones, I know there are evolving forces at work in our communities. When I discover that a great number of folks answering questions, accepting orders and reservations over the phone live in that far away land of India, I am startled by how business works these days. At a national convention that I recently attended, a marketing expert said that businesses should look to the Disney Corp. for their future strategy. His explanation stunned me: ‘Disney owns our children.’ When I hear of the drastic changes in our environment and the fall-out alterations to our way of life, I know that if we aren’t teaching our students of today elements beyond my generation’s knowledge, we have a problem.
In a sense, our lives everyday are like a graduation. We are trying to take our skill base and learnings of the past while figuring out how to use them in building a productive life for ourselves and the community around us. We have mixed feelings and thoughts about most everything. We are in a real sense conflicted within and in our relation to everything else. It might seem comforting to lapse into the nostalgia associated with simpler days and forget the whirl of today. Or we might find it invigorating to cast off our past and go for broke in the future. Fortunately, we humans can’t handle the fall out from such extremes, and we are left with the difficult option of combining yesterday, today and tomorrow in our thinking and practices.
I see the old infrastructures of life, institutions, buildings and practices as examples of one of the biggest puzzles we face. How do we adapt the new of the future to the foundations that were built in the past? How do we maintain our sense of who we are in a rapidly changing world? It is less mystifying to adapt the inside of an old building to new uses than to adjust the worldwide shifts in the economic market to the social and political practices of our culture.
I love the serenity and pastoral nature of our farm. It is a temptation to wish all change to go its way. But that is a fictional and unwise fantasy. I remember a professor in a college class speaking of the philosophy that the only thing constant is change itself. It is certainly an ever-present companion in the digital ecosystem in which we live.
For years, we here in the hills close to the Ohio River were a bit cut off from other areas because our roads were small and winding. Interstate 64 changed all that, and we are now part of the greater Louisville area when statistics are used for planning and actions. Today, in the year 2007, our highway has no physical strings attached.
Always On-Always Connected was the title of an international meeting I attended last week. The speakers spoke of the uncertainty of the future and the need for adaptability in our strategies for the future of businesses and communities. They said what we needed was ‘high performance achieved by ‘INNOVATION’.’ I thought of those graduates I had seen in Indiana and knew they were in line with these demands.
When I returned home after all these meetings, graduations and conferences, my mind and heart came to Corydon. How to apply what I had learned to the future before us. Looming ahead is the opportunity that the old Keller Manufacturing site provides. It is indeed a real example of the issues of our day. Complex, ever shifting, interconnected with all the other parts of our community and attached to the ‘Global living room.’
Another catch phrase I picked up recently states, ‘Good intention is not a strategy.’ Oh, oh! I guess that means we should get together and develop a plan. I guess that means we need to figure out how to work collectively and tackle a complex condition by breaking it into manageable parts. I guess that means we should turn research and talk into action. I know that means we better get busy ‘ not stop with simple, easy to achieve goals ‘ look for the biggest and brightest ideas ‘ take risks, ask for advice ‘ think question and go for it. The graduation is over but the learning continues with intensity. The post-graduation party always calls for ‘up and at ’em’ action. So let’s get started! Which one of you will call us together?