The pomp and the circumstance continues today with commencements scheduled for three Pasco public high schools. By this evening, the Pasco County School District will have spent the past three days sending 3,673 seniors from the graduation stage to their next stage in life.
That stage will bring fears shared by the rest of us. There is double-digit unemployment or the potential for downsizing for those who have a job. Attempts at qualifying for a mortgage can be disheartening. In the immediate future, scraping together money for the prom, yearbook and car insurance now pales to financing a college education.
So, let's set aside the depressing finances and consider that the next stage also will bring joys shared by the rest of us — continued intellectual stimulation, public service, beginning and advancing work careers, starting families and still more friendships.
And, it will bring never-ending, unsolicited advice, a sample of which now follows:
• Be original. That is easier for some than others. This year marks the first graduating classes from Sunlake High in Land O'Lakes, Wiregrass Ranch in Wesley Chapel and the International Baccalaureate program at Gulf High in New Port Richey. Nobody can dispute your chants of "We're No. 1."
• Be involved. A recent survey of Pasco County residents indicates the live-here, work-there lifestyle has helped stymie community involvement, with most people skipping public participation in civic activities. Now is a good time to start reversing that trend. Think of it as doing the fundraising carwash, the walk-a-thon or some other community service effort because you want to, not because you have to.
• Be forgiving. It's an appropriate message this commencement season in both Pasco and Hernando counties, where senior pranks collected plenty of news coverage.
• Be responsible. If you've received multiple warnings that choices carry consequences, don't be surprised when they actually do.
• Be adventurous (within reason). Drag racing on public streets isn't cool, but there are opportunities to skydive, surf, boat, or ride a roller coaster within a few minutes drive. You'll enjoy the rush and have a story to tell the offspring someday.
• Be challenged and don't be complacent with just getting by. Earning a C in life means you muffed half the opportunities.
• Be appreciative of history. In just your senior year of high school, you've witnessed historic moments in the World Series, on Election Day, at the inauguration, at the Mitchell High School pitcher's mound, and now with a U.S. Supreme Court nomination. You're also living through an economic recession unrivaled in 50 years — something else to tell the kids someday.
• Be patient, particularly behind the wheel of a car. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among American teenagers ages 16 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There are enough roadside memorials around Pasco County already.
• Be smart. Failing to wear a seat belt drives up those fatalities.
• Be an advocate. Standing on the sidelines is too easy and just plain unproductive.
• Be accommodating. Remember the times friends offered a ride home, help with homework or loaned you lunch money? If they don't have the same memories of you providing them assistance then you are too much of a taker and not enough of a giver.
• Be independent. Helicopter parents can't do everything for you.
• Be a contributor to the public dialogue and don't mistake bullying and hurling insults as a satisfactory substitute for engaging in a debate.
• Be willing to take ownership of your work. Sign a letter to the editor, instead of blogging anonymously.
• Be able to admit mistakes. We all make them and will continue to do so. Successful people learn from their gaffes and minimize them in the future.
• Be generous with your gratitude. Pre-K, elementary, middle and high school teachers just spent more than 13 years helping to shape your intellect. You owe them a thank you.
• Be yourself.