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The Voice of New Rochelle: Blood, Sweat and Years

New Rochelle High School and several secondary schools conducted their graduation ceremonies last week on two of the hottest days on record for June. The students may have to sweat for more than their diplomas.

The mass of purple clad graduates, New Rochelle’s class of 2012, was overshadowed by members of the crowd fanning themselves and workers handing out some kind of wet-wipes to cool off the soon to be honored and their guests. News 12 got it right; the story was about the heat.

At first I wondered why they didn’t move the event indoors, but thought again that there might not be enough room. Next, I was enlightened by another notion: they may as well begin to sweat now.

I could not attend the New Rochelle festivities as I was the keynote speaker down the road a piece at Rye Neck. Fortunately, the smaller class size made it easier to relocate their ceremony indoors. That I was honored beyond belief is an understatement and a story for another day. Suffice it to say that WVOX has been interning high school seniors for 50 years, long before I arrived on the scene.

What is relevant is that I was more nervous than I have been giving a speech or doing a show—even television—than I have been since my very first day on the air. I was aware that I was participating in something sacred. 

Sacred because this was the only time these young people will ever have a graduation from high school. Sacred because they are now headed to a world that is less forgiving than what they know. Sacred because they still have enough innocence to believe in their dreams and will remain free for a little while longer of the obligations that wake us from those not yet accomplished. It is also sacred because the world we are sending them into is choking on itself trying to create jobs for the high school and college graduates we are pumping into the workforce every year.

There are many reasons for this—again the topic for another day. But some do stand out. Most corporations have lost the sense of social responsibility that once enabled them to make great profits and still worry about the well being of their employees and society as a whole. Morality, for them, has become too big an expense. Manufacturing jobs, and what we used to call vocational work, have moved overseas—a necessary, if painful, consequence of global capitalism. Civil service jobs, once a cornerstone of secure, if not rich-paying, jobs are being eliminated, and future ones less well-compensated, killed by the very union goose that created to all too many Humpty Dumpty golden eggs.

When I turned to my right to engage these young people of Rye Neck, as I did later when I saw our New Rochelle graduates sweating on TV, all I could think to say was, “You don’t know what’s coming, do you?” It was not a negative feeling. Like generations before, they will find their way in the world and solve the problems the way all of the rest of us did, often in ways we would never have thought of.   

It is their time.

The next day, in the newsroom at WVOX, a bright, smiling graduate of New Rochelle High School came in to pitch me a show segment. I don’t know if it came to her while she was sitting in the sauna on Thursday, or if she had the idea for some time. She wants to do a show on secondary education, seeing if room exists to reformat it so that the last two years for some students could focus on vocational skills, such as health care, where jobs are plentiful. She was talking about options not certitude. She, herself, is headed to one of the finest schools in the country.

Amazing, I thought. This kid’s diploma is not a day old and she is already on the case. The future is theirs, good and bad. They are quite willing to sweat again to make their own future.

Good luck to the class of 2012.

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