There goes another year, just like the ones that preceded it.

Once again, the phone didn't ring, nor was there an e-mail from any of the region's school district superintendents inviting the ol' one to serve as keynote speaker at high school commencement exercises either at Twin Valley, Garden Spot, or Owen J. Roberts.

Well, undaunted by this oversight, the ol' one takes this opportunity to address the Tri County region's graduating classes of 2006.

Ahem...dear graduates:

Let the ol' one be among your many friends and family members to offer you congratulations upon reaching one of life's major milestones. The time is nigh for you to shed the innocence and naivete of yesterday and to assume a degree of responsibility greater than any you have ever had to imagine.

Granted, each and every one of you has had momentous highs as well as lows during these last four years. But for most of you, these will pale in comparison to the triumphs and frustrations life is just waiting to throw your way.

The reality is that some of you will be better able to handle what life has in store than others, at least in the near future. However, as time goes on, the playing field of life should level as you become wiser in ways you cannot now begin to comprehend.

Take it from the ol' one: There is no guarantee that this will happen, but the odds will be in your favor if you accept that about the only two things certain in life, as the saying goes, are death and taxes. The Angel of Death and Uncle Sam notwithstanding, you will soon find out, if you haven't already had an inkling, that nothing worthwhile comes without dedication and hard work.

The past, your past, as another saying goes, is prologue. Every day sets the stage for the next. Some days will feel like you have a four-star blockbuster of a Broadway hit on your hands; other days, you may wonder what went wrong in the first act.

But, as yet another saying goes, the show, especially this one, must go on in spite of what the critics have to say. This is your show. You-'re the producer, the director, the playwright. You have the leading role.

In a real sense, you have had your show in tryouts during the last four years. Now your show has opened: It's all yours regardless of what happens in the next act. You've gone from Broad-way to New Haven to the big time.

The stage of life, however, is a tricky one. No one ever said it would be an easy set of boards to cross. And, there are those acts that are, indeed, tough to follow, no matter how hard you try.

Beneath all the glitz and glitter of this daily drama are a few things that will help determine just how successful your show will be. Those things are called values, and they will help you take each step along the way.

It's the value of self-respect and the value of self-esteem. Yes, you mean a lot to your parents and your families, but you also mean a lot to yourself. There will be times when life's audience will stand up and cheer your accomplishments, and, sure, that will make you feel like you have just won the lottery. There will also be other times when you realize that no one has noticed that little thing you've done to make the life of someone else-or yours-just a bit easier. But you have.

You don't have to scale the highest peak in the land to enjoy a feeling of accomplishment and self-satisfaction. That's not to say that you should shrink from a challenge, but not every day will offer you the opportunity to climb the highest mountain. Just successfully taking that next little hill can provide a degree of satisfaction that wasn't there before.

Never fail to recognize that you have value and that your's is an important role to play in this show called life. Never lose sight of the fact that you have a contribution to make. That-'s reason enough to justify why you had to get up every morning during the last four years to get to class on time, well, most of the time. As we all know, there can be the occasional extenuating circumstance or two.

Also, keep in mind that self-respect and respect for others go hand-in-hand. Let yourself lose sight of this and it will be like watching an improperly maintained vehicle depreciate quicker than the Blue Book value.

Yes, you determine the value you place on yourself and the image you portray to others. And, don't forget that your parents, family, and teachers have all had something to do with it, but now it's on you as you take your leave of this stage in your life and head on to the next. Those fine folks will always be your best audience and sometimes your harshest critics, but don't ever forget that they were once where you are now: at center stage of the greatest show you could imagine.

And that show is called life, your life.

Never forget that you will always have value, value in yourself, and never fail to recognize the value in others. That, too, goes hand-in-hand.

Let the ol' one offer congratulations one more time to the Class of '06. Go light up Broadway or Route 23 or Route 10, or maybe even the world.

Ol' Morgan rails on the porch about life and the importance of self-esteem. Contact him at olmorganonporch@yahoo.com.

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