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Class of 2010, we do need you but here's some advice
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A recent Wall Street Journal magazine article by Joe Queenan was headlined, "No One Needs You, Class of 2010." The headline was intended to shock but I get his point: That after spending a ton of money on a quality education, many college graduates will not find jobs that pay the big bucks. As in the days of Jimmy Carter, there seems to be a malaise in the country in spirit and economy.

Grads, I would disagree with Queenan. We do need you. Absolutely we do. You are the future of the country. The job market may be tough today - and may be for years - but those who are determined will succeed in this period of economic recession.

Graduates, allow me to give you my perspective from someone who is approaching the half-century mark. I picked up my diploma on an Oakdale High School football stadium on June 5, 1979, certain that one day I would become president of the United States. Obviously I didn't make it happen. Which leads me to my first point:

• No one is going to make it happen for you. If you want something in life, you must be intentional and as focussed as a laser beam. And trust me, there is a world of distraction ready to break your concentration. If you want to study science, make it your passion. Politics? Study and be close to those you are in politics. Strategize and have a plan. It's the same with business, art, medicine, writing and teaching.

• It's time to grow up. I know you like playing video games but I don't know anybody who makes money doing it. You may think it's cool to invest hundreds of dollars in body piercings and tattoos out of a desire to look cool, but they don't impress those who are hiring. No one wants a kid - like the one I saw last Thursday at Quizno's on Whitmore Avenue with pierced ear lobes stretched wide open to the size of silver dollars - working for him.

• It's not all about you. Sorry to say but you have not arrived. You are not the next Bill Gates or Simon Cowell yet, and chances are that you won't be. Humble yourself and picture yourself merely joining the end of a long line of soldiers who've been marching along, with those at the head of the line dropping off to the side, tired and dying.

• Be a person of your word. Do what you say you will do. And does anyone really have to tell you that you need to show up for work when you're scheduled to? Really? Even if all your friends are going to the lake on Saturday and you're scheduled to work that day? You'll stand out among a generation of promise breakers and people will take notice. Take responsibility and you'll be given responsibility. Do your best. If you work at Wal-Mart, work as if you owned the company. And honestly, you'll feel better about yourself if you do your best, no matter if you feel you're underpaid for the work you do.

• Get college out of the way first. Don't buy into the notion that you can go back to school later. Many a marriage and children have derailed that plan for many.

• Don't let others think for you. Challenge what your teachers in high school or college tell you. Chances are they're teaching you things that your parents and grandparents don't believe.

• Find God if you haven't already. The Bible is full of wisdom for life, not just preparation for the afterlife. He who dies with the most toys still dies. Invest in your spiritual life and realize that without God eternity can seem like hell - literally.

• Get to know the person you want to marry. A good rule is 18 months of dating before you walk down the aisle. If your inner voice tells you that you shouldn't, be all means, no matter how painful, don't. Ever ponder that the divorce rate may be so high because many ignore the alarms going off in their head or they make hasty wedding plans? If you go into marriage thinking divorce is a good escape hatch, chances are you will use it when things get tough.

• Take care of your body; it's the only one you've got. Seems like a no-brainer for a twenty-something but take a look around and see how many people who two or three decades later are pathetic physical specimens because of smoking, drug use, lack of exercise, lousy food choices and sleep deprivation. I am a firm believer in daily exercise. You must do it no matter how much you hate it. Which leads me to this next one...

• Practice physical and mental disciplines. Practice the art of denying yourself at least once a day. If a candy bar is screaming for you to buy it and gobble it up, tell yourself you don't need it right now. Do something every now and then that challenges your comfort zone. Routine is the enemy of creativity.

• Be respectful of others. Ever hear of the Golden Rule?

• Appreciate what you've got. Studies reveal that happy people tend to be grateful for the little things in life. Smile. Have a personality that people want to be around. Don't live life so fast that you fail to smile when a child bats bashful eyes at you. Or that you fail to see flowers along the side of the road. And it goes without saying that you should - no must - say "I love you" to family and close friends. Life without regrets.

• Get outside of yourself. We live in a world of people who only love themselves. Trouble is they don't love others. Volunteer for a worthy cause. You'll be amazed at how your open eyes - and heart - will see need and want to help others. If you want a good place to start, sign up to help at the local food bank, or contact the Volunteer Center of United Way, 524-1307.

• Consider yourself blessed for living in the U.S. Whenever you feel sorry about your position in life, realize you're wealthy by world standards. If you don't believe me, visit and enter your annual income for a global perspective.

• Know what's going on in the world and take a stand. Defend your country. Realize that we need to elect people who take seriously that there are millions out there who would love to kill you simply because you are an American.

I end with this favorite quote of Theodore Roosevelt, a man who lived life to the full: "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat."

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at