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It's your turn, Class of 2010, show us how

An open letter to the high school Class of 2010:

Congratulations. You have made it through 13 years of education and are preparing to embark on the next phase of your life: adulthood. You are on the cusp of understanding why everyone a few years older than you always looks terrible.

This week, some of you will slowly walk into an auditorium full of the people who provided you with the love and encouragement you needed to succeed: your families, your friends, your teachers. How proud they all will be when your name is called and you walk across the stage wearing a truly ridiculous hat and an ill-fitting tablecloth, all of them silently thinking the same thought: "Please don't trip."

Your life stretches before you like a blank canvas, and you have every color and hue on your palette. Paint in broad strokes. Experiment. However, consider water colors, because oil-based paints are tough to get out, and you might want to paint over your first few efforts.

You know what? Scratch the whole painting metaphor. Your life stretches before you like loose-leaf paper. Use pencil. And write on both sides.

As much as this time is about contemplating your future, it also is about celebrating your past. You have achieved things that your parents never imagined possible when you were eating books instead of reading them; when they had to trick you into taking a bath, not threaten you with physical force if you didn't get out of the shower; when the hardest part of their day was getting you to fall asleep at night, not trying to wake you up in the morning -- or early afternoon.

Now the world beckons. Many of you are headed to college. Some of you will stay home and live with your parents, because you can't bear the thought of being away from them and their cars and their wallets and their refrigerator. Many of you will go away -- or, more precisely, get away -- because you are ready to experience a little independence, which sounds great until the first time it is your turn to clean the dorm bathroom you share with three total slobs.

Some of you are choosing to enter the military. You are in our prayers every day.

All of you will benefit from your role as witnesses to some of the most astounding technological advances the world has ever known. You carry computers in your pocket. You have seen the videocassette give way to the DVD to the Blu-ray to whatever will supplant it this week. You went from buying CDs to downloading MP3s. You have become so accustomed to acronyms that you no longer laugh, you LOL.

Adults have always struggled with how teenagers communicate, but you do so in ways that were science fiction not that long ago. We used to think of multitasking as eating breakfast and reading the paper at the same time. We have watched in wonderment as you have e-mailed, texted, talked, tweeted, IM'd, Facebooked and Skyped at the same time, all the while singing every word and every note of every song on that week's episode of "Glee," including the harmony. We are awed by the thought of what you can accomplish.

So go forth, graduates, and take your place as the leaders of tomorrow. Remember the lessons you learned in the classroom, the friends you made, the laughter you shared. Remember, too, the words of the columnist and author Anna Quindlen, who once told a group of college graduates: "It is so easy to exist instead of live."

Go and live.

But first, be sure to give your parents a big hug. You owe them.


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