My hometown of Beardstown has a tradition of holding a class reunion each summer at the high school. We operate on five year increments, so this year welcomed the class of 1985, 1990, 1995, etc. The alumni association holds a wonderful banquet at the school, and each graduating class submits a few words to be collected in the the program. This year is my 20th anniversary, and I’m honored to have been chosen to write our class’ response. While it’s written for those who have graduated from Beardstown High School, I think it applies to any and all high school graduates, both old and new alike …
One wouldn’t think much could change in 20 years, yet the world is a vastly different place than in 1995. In those days watching a movie at home meant popping in a VHS tape. Listening to music required a CD or cassette. And if you wanted to connect with someone, you called them on the telephone or visited them in person.
Now here we are in 2015, and some could argue we are connected more than ever. After all, thanks to social media, we regularly learn of our friends’ new career paths, see pictures of each other’s children, and share in the knowledge of nightly dinner choices.
Yet, oddly enough, even with the hourly deluge of updates and news, many feel separated by an impersonal gulf, a digital barricade that reduces us to no more than a thumbnail-sized persona upon mobile devices. We have “friends,” but do we have friends?
Technologically speaking, 2015 surpasses 1995 in every conceivable way—pagers, anyone? However, there’s something we excelled at in 1995, something no amount of tinkering can improve upon. We were together. We cruised the strip for hours, loitering in parking lots, and when we were run off, we simply regrouped somewhere else. We went to each other’s homes. We walked together just for something to do. We shook hands using elaborate methods that surely rivaled the complexity of contemporary DNA sequencing. We hugged. In other words, we spent time together. Not through some digitized ether, but rather, side-by-side, arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand.
As we grow older, we realize that with age does indeed come wisdom. (This may be the appropriate moment to pause and apologize to our parents and grandparents.) Perhaps we are not any more academically intelligent than on Graduation Day, but all of us have endured 20 years’ of life, and with that has come victory and defeat, love and loss, life and death—all of which equates to experience, which, most would contend, is the bedrock of wisdom. Humanity flourishes most when it bands together, when it decides a village can raise a child better than an individual, that honoring a neighbor also results in personal valor. Unity propagates achievement.
This simple fact is why we must strive to reunite. No matter the year of graduation, returning to our roots, coming back to each other, and reconnecting with those who grew up beside us—it revitalizes. It keeps us humble. It helps us remember not only where we’ve been, but also where we want to go. It allows us the opportunity to reflect upon our own achievements, and also to celebrate our peers’ successes.
Adulthood has taught us that we are in this thing called “life” together. We must remain connected. And if we’ve disconnected, now is the time to reconnect.
To the class of 2015, we implore you to always stay in touch, to gain wisdom through living well, and to come back home.
Always come back home.