Reflections on Graduation V

By Ursula Jonsson

Our tech-savvy, online generation googles, facebooks, myspaces, and tweets like professionals. We download, upgrade, burn, rip, and post better and faster than our parents and teachers. With all the double-clicking and right-clicking, in what way does this digital know-how translate into something meaningful for us as college graduates?

We grasp, white-knuckled to the idealism that so epitomizes our age group and we sit with furrowed-brow at our computer monitors. We have become the internet generation, yes, but really we have become flexible and dynamic verbs; compelled to act because we want to be a part of something substantial for ourselves and for those around us. This era of novel verbiage and tech phrases signifies this action. We are curious about what is around the corner, interested in localities beyond our own, and yes, we inquire into the lives of others.  The world is not static. And neither are we.

Think about this. Christmas this past year, my younger brother, my mother, and I were at home in northern Virginia. My older brother and his fiancé live in Houston, where he is a petroleum engineer.  On this particular Christmas he was on a rig somewhere in the gulf. So there are three of us in Virginia. My older brother was on a rig and his fiancé and her mother were in Houston.

On Christmas morning from northern Virginia, we video-chatted my future sister-in law and her mother on my mom’s computer. Simultaneously we video chatted my older brother on my computer.  At the same time, my older brother and his fiancé were on their cell phones. We did this so we could celebrate Christmas together, of course. While my younger brother opened his gift from the Texas contingent and his excitement for bright orange custom Reeboks was conveyed through two webcams and my video camera all while my mother took digital stills, I had to laugh at how ridiculous it all seemed. And yet, the distance necessitated a little creative thinking since we simply refused to celebrate the holidays….apart.  Sure our situation sat on the periphery of digital activity, but that did not matter. We opened presents and cracked jokes as if we were all together. And in that moment we were.

Sure we all gchat, blog, and skype with swift fingertips, but we also hope, we fear, and we dream like every generation before and every generation to come. The uniqueness in us is not our idealism or eagerness to affect changed. Instead, as guinea pigs of technological innovation, it is how we have embraced communication and made it our own, acting with rather than resisting these innovations and nimbly proffering our perspective in this competitive marketplace of momentum.

We are visionaries of imaginative and impractical proportions, but challenge us with the freedom to act, and we will be the impetus needed to improve, to mend, to create, to produce, and of course, to succeed.

We are inheriting an imperfect world with challenges that demand perseverance, transparency, and integrity. We are impressionable, but independent. Compelled to act, we are the verbs that refuse to sit statically out of sight. We are LinkedIn and logged on.  Our momentum imparts our desire for personal success, but also to find our purpose, and to serve the community, online or otherwise.

The world needs a lot of saving these days. We must save the planet, the economy, the whales. We must save the newspaper, music and arts programs and Darfur, among a host of other causes. If only it were possible to click File Save with our adept fingers. But just because it’s not easy does not mean we aren’t prepared to face the challenges. Not only will we be the saviors of these causes, but we will blog about this saving, perhaps somewhat self-indulgently, or perhaps therapeutically.  But surely someone will want to read about it.

We will turn our tassels and collect our diplomas as the latest hardware with the most up-to-date software.  As we cling to the hope that our hard work these past several years has not been in vain, we must remember that we are the verbs, dynamic and expressive.  Sure, we are not old enough to be wise, but that does not mean we are too young to make a difference.

I expect great things from you, my fellow graduates. And I look forward to reading about them on your Facebook pages.

Congratulations.  And thank you.

Ursula is a graduating senior majoring in International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict and Security. She is heading to law school in Fall 2010 and hopes to spend the year in-between traveling and volunteering.

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