October 16, 2019
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Advice for the Class of 2019, and the rest of us, too

Michael G. Seamans | AP
Michael G. Seamans | AP
Travis Mills, who lost all four limbs in an explosion in Afghanistan and created a foundation to help other war-injured veterans, gives a speech to the 2019 graduating class at Unity College Saturday, May 11, 2019 after receiving an honorary doctorate degree in sustainable science at Unity College in Unity, Me.

We’re at the end of another graduation season. Parents wiped away tears, mostly of joy. High school graduates now look forward to new challenges at colleges, far away or around the corner, or new careers in a state that desperately needs young workers.

College graduates head off into a world of responsibility and promise, many with a daunting debt burden weighing them down.

But on many recent weekends, graduates and their families, along with their professors and dignitaries heard from a wide variety of graduation speakers. Some were funny, some profound.

One, billionaire technology investor Richard Smith, made a life changing announcement. During his address last month, Smith announced that he would pay off the entire college debt for the Morehouse College Class of 2019.

“On behalf of the eight generations of my family that have been in this country, we’re gonna put a little fuel in your bus,” the investor and philanthropist told graduates in his May 19 address. “This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”

His $40 million gift was met first with stunned silence before the class of about 400 graduates burst into applause and cheers.

Although other speeches didn’t inspire shock or involve such big gifts, many important life lessons were imparted during the annual graduation speech ritual.

Retired Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, only one of five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive his injuries, gave a speech full of self-deprecating humor and poignant advice to the graduates of Unity College.

“You can’t control your situation, but you can control your attitude,” he said. “For me, I woke up in a hospital with no arms and no legs and that was my situation.

“But it was on me if I was going to make the best of it or the worst of it. Sit in my house and do nothing, not be an active member in society or my family.”

He, of course, chose not just to be an active member of society, but also to give back to this community and the world. He has built a retreat center in Belgrade where veterans and their families can go to rebuild themselves, strengthen their relationships, and relax. He also gives motivational speeches around the country.

Sen. Angus King shared his list of the top things he wishes he had been told when he was 18 with the graduates of Carrabec High School in North Anson on June 7.

Here are a few: Take more risks. Be honest even if it hurts. Treat your first job as if it’s the most important you’ll ever have. Don’t put anything on the internet that you don’t want your grandmother to see on the front page of the newspaper and always carry a $20 bill.

He also warned against believing that new possessions or a new locale will make you happy. “You carry your happiness between your ears,” King told the graduates. “A lot of people think, ‘If only I can buy a Harley Davidson I’ll be happy.’ A thing is not going to make your happy or a place. You have to have a positive attitude wherever you are.”

With this good advice, we add our best wishes to the Class of 2019. Work hard, take risks, give back and don’t forget to laugh.

 



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