Greetings and congratulations to those of you who have completed the prescribed course of academia and have now, or soon will be, granted a diploma from your respective Salinas Valley schools. As has been pointed out to you all, your graduation is an important academic achievement and personal milestone in your lives and serves as the foundation for your futures.
From this point onward, all of you have a greater investment in what you will become than ever before and the decisions you make from this point forward will define the paths you ultimately take in life. Prior to this time, you all have been dependent upon us; us being your parents, relatives, friends, teachers, coaches and various members of society. And now that has changed.
In the past, your lives have been guided and mentored upon a set path, that of guaranteeing that you all received a well-rounded education, both in academic and cultural arenas. Now as many of you set out upon future educational accomplishments and personal adventures, it will be up to you to make the decisions that will lead to the person that will someday become a contributing member of society. The next few years will undoubtedly be filled with both good times and bad times as the vagaries of life are confronted, and while behind each and every one of you will be the support of those who have always been there for you, the choices you make from here on out lie directly at your doorstep.
Some of those decisions you make will not only define the rest of your lives, but will also impact the lives of many around you. In the next few years as you receive instruction and knowledge, either on the college campus of your choice or in the schoolroom of life, your destiny lies within your own decisions and actions. For some it will be a continuation of a family legacy, to attend the same schools your parents attended; for some it will be a break from that tradition; and for some it will be the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of your families as you become the first member to achieve higher education.
The areas in which all of you now seek to conquer are as myriad as life itself and reflective of what America has to offer the world in terms of her future leaders. The decision to enter the fields of medicine, business, technology, academics, vocational or artistry will be up to you, and how and where you will apply the results of that decision will add to the fabric of American society. How you apply what you have learned will be determined by each and every one of you according to the specifics of your field of endeavor, which specifics are determined by the campus attended and courses taken. But where you apply what you have learned is totally up to you; and that decision will impact not only your life, but also the lives of the society in which you live and work.
It is this question of where each and every one of you will settle in the next few years that I wish to address. As mentioned before, your lives have been dependent upon the local society in which you lived, but that has now changed and in a few short years (and you will notice as you age that years seem to shorten and go by much more quickly) you will be accomplished in your chosen fields. And when that time comes for each of you to decide upon where to apply what you have learned, I would offer this as a viable choice: come home.
When you become a fabricator, nurse or doctor, mechanic, farmer or rancher, businessperson, teacher, tinker, tailor or candlestick maker, you will be valuable to us here in the Valley. We will need you to continue building the future of this unique place in California, to plan and build and maintain the myriad cultural aspects of what many of us call home and what the country calls the “Salad Bowl of the World.”
Should you decide to return to us here in the Valley and bring with you all the knowledge and vitality of young adults, I guarantee you will be welcome with open arms. Because by then — to use an old adage — the tables will be turned, and we will need you. It will be us who will then be dependent upon you to make our lives better. We will need you not only within your chosen field, but city government will need leaders. As will the many nonprofit organizations and academic and social groups need your valuable accomplishments and personalities.
You are our future; you are the hope of a better world for those of us who have been a part of your world up until now; now it is all up to you. And as Dorothy told the Tin Man: “There is no place like home.”
Whatever decisions you make, know that we are all behind you and wish you the best.
Take care. Peace.