Is it All Doom and Gloom for 2009 Grads?

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Recently I was at a board meeting for a local women's business organization and one of the members who is also a Mom shared something that took me by surprise. She had been at a college graduation where the graduation speaker literally spoke a message of doom and gloom for 2009 graduates. As she put it, "the speaker basically told these young adults that while they succeeded in getting their diploma there are no jobs to be found so be ready for disappointment and dependence on your parents". She said you could literally feel the defeat from the students and the parents' frustration at having just spent a few hundred thousand of dollars only to get this uninspired celebration.

That got me to thinking, in these economic times, what messages are our 2009 graduates receiving? How will these messages impact their success (or lack thereof) and their beliefs about what is possible?

I'm not suggesting putting blinders on and telling graduates some story about how rosy the economy or job prospects are right now. MPR talks about the grim jobs outlook for new college grads. Even the UK is all in the news with the tough summer job hunt for graduates. If you believe economists who are sitting around gazing at their cracked crystal balls, more than 90% of them see the recession coming to an end in 2009.

Regardless of outer circumstances, though, graduation is a time to celebrate. A time to inspire and to give people of all ages hope. It is creativity, ingenuity, innovation, and the human spirit that always prevails regardless of external conditions and THAT is what the message to 2009 should be.

Fortunately there have been many reports of positive and fruitful speeches blooming among the naysayers like my colleague experienced and bloggers who do not having promising messages for grads.

President Obama had some excellent advice to dispense to the graduates at Arizona State University.

“…that in fact the elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short-term gain over lasting achievement is precisely what your generation needs to help end."

"I'm talking about an approach to life -- a quality of mind and quality of heart; a willingness to follow your passions, regardless of whether they lead to fortune and fame;...a lack of regard for all the traditional markers of status and prestige -- and a commitment instead to doing what's meaningful to you, what helps others, what makes a difference in this world.”

First Lady Michelle Obama had equally positive words to share:

“Make giving back to your community part of your vision,” Obama told the 511 students receiving degrees Saturday as members of UC Merced’s pioneer class, the first graduates who started attending the school as freshmen when it opened in fall 2005.

MidLifeMama shares this tidbit from the graduation she attended:

Our speaker was Marian Heard, currently the President and CEO of Oxen Hill Partners, a leadership development company. She also used to be the director of the United Way here in Boston. She gave a great speech, both moving and short. Short is key to any commencement speech if you ask me. One of the things she focused on was thanking the people who supported you and sacrificed so that you the student could get to this moment. She also challenged the students to be on the path of progress. One that leads to the next step, the next phase of their lives, and to strive not for perfection, but for progress.

While the world is a bit wilder and wackier, especially when it comes to career, business, and finance this year than in the past, perhaps last year's advice from J.K. Rowling's commencement speech rings true even more:

“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better. “

It is this inner strength and response that is most needed by graduates, especially in 2009.

Lest we all take ourselves too darn seriously, it is always important to maintain some perspective and know that while many things change, some things remain the same. Suburb Sanity has a fun look at how "I lived through high school graduation and you can too". A grain of salt is the best way to take on this milestone and some of her tips are spot on (especially the cell phone and principal as graduation speaker ones).

In 2009 as in any year before or after, life is what you make it.  You get to create your own reality.  So, take some time to celebrate, extend gratitude to others, and dream.  Then get into action in a way that fits who you most want to be in the world.


Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, offers life coaching for women to help you gain the clarity, confidence, and courage you need to have success on your own terms. Get the free eCourse "5 Steps to Turn Fear Into Freedom" at her website

Get the latest word on personal finances from an LGBT perspective and Paula's practical coach approach to the topic at Queercents http://www.queercents.com.

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