Commentary: A message to the Class of 2019

Mark Johnson

Commentary: A message to the Class of 2019
June 20
10:50 2019

By Mark Johnson

It’s graduation time for high school seniors across North Carolina. As new high school graduates, you are now ready to embark onto the next chapter of your life.

Whether that is going to a four-year institution, community college, technical school, the military or directly into the work force, you have worked hard to get where you are today and to be ready for that next challenge.  

Now it’s up to you to make the most of the chance you have to chart the course and be successful in whatever path you choose.  

As you look back at your time in high school, be sure to remember those who helped you get here:  your parents or caregivers, your teachers, your friends, and your neighbors.  

Think about some of the sacrifices they made to help you be where you are today, and when you get the chance, thank them.  

You now have the opportunity to achieve your American Dream; do your best to be everything you can be.  

I am sure you are getting plenty of advice from family and friends, so let me take the opportunity to offer you some advice of my own.

First, some quick advice on life itself. It’s short and goes by faster than you can imagine.

Make the most out of every moment. Every bit of time that passes is time you won’t get back. As soon as you read these words, they will be history, so make the most out of your time to ensure your own future happiness — emotional, spiritual, and financial.    

But, don’t ever think it is too late to change course if you aren’t happy. Don’t be afraid to pursue the challenges that make life worth living. You can actually enjoy multiple careers over the course of your life.  

Whatever career you choose, here are some steps to follow to be successful: work hard, be kind, and save your money.    

Working hard is self-explanatory. Everyone dreams of winning the lottery, but odds are that your American Dream, like almost everyone else’s, will take hard work to reach. 

Being kind will help you find happiness in work and in your relationships. Some people can be successful through cutthroat tactics, but you will more likely find success and be happier through collaboration. For example, while being an elected leader entails an unfortunate level of strife and contention, the best parts of my job result from working with other people to effect positive change. And, those other people very much include folks who disagree with me but engage in productive conversations, working together to find solutions or try new ideas to see what bears fruit.

Finally, start setting aside your money as soon as possible. The sooner you save, the sooner your money starts making you more money. Thanks to compound interest, starting to save early is as important as how much you save. Even if it seems like just a little bit each month, money that is saved works for you for the rest of your life.

While your steps across a stage may not feel like big ones, they represent your major strides into the next chapters of your life. Congratulations on finishing this chapter – now make the most out of life. You only get one, and right now, it is yours for the taking.

Mark Johnson is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. After teaching school in Charlotte and serving on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board, he now lives in Raleigh with his wife and their daughter, who just completed kindergarten in public school.

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