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Flat-top hats receive wise advice

By Joel McNeece

Young people all around Calhoun County and beyond, dressed in long colorful gowns, flat-top hats and big smiles, will make important walks in front of friends and family this week to accept their high school diploma.

My late father-in-law S. Gale Denley began a tradition on this week many years ago of providing some advice for graduates. Here are a few from both of us for the Class of 2017 to ponder.

•If you don’t love yourself, you are always in bad company.

•Living life to the fullest will require some risk taking, and will naturally be followed by failure at times. Don’t be frightened by failure, instead learn from it and become even better.

Westheimer put it another way. “My favorite animal is the turtle. The reason is that in order for the turtle to move, it has to stick its neck out. There are going to be times in your life when you’re going to have to stick your neck out. There will be challenges and instead of hiding in a shell, you have to go out and meet them.”

•You will find some of your greatest happiness in helping others. To quote my Rotary Club motto — “He profits most who serves the best.”

•Always try to surround yourself with people smarter than you.

•There are no silly dreams. You can be whatever you want to be if you’re willing to work hard for it.

Comedian Lewis Black said it this way.

“Pursue whatever it is that you want to do with your life. It is the only secret to happiness that I know except for maybe true love, that and maybe having the amazing health insurance plan that our congressmen have.”

•Your greatest self comes from having great friends.

•Don’t be afraid of difference, be curious. You can learn much from differing points of view.

•Get involved in the world around you. Join local civic groups. If you don’t care enough to make your hometown a better place, why should anyone else?

•Take what you are doing very seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

My father-in-law was the best advice-giver I’ve ever known. Here are a few of his suggestions:

•Don’t back up any more than you have to, whether in driving or debate.

•Always opt to live east of where you work. You will be driving away from the sun in the morning, and the sun will be at your back in the evening. It is safer, lets you arrive in a better mood and is not nearly so harmful to your eyesight.

•If in doubt, don’t.

•Regularly read newspapers, magazines and books. It is more fruitful than television (and the internet). Limit TV to objective news format offerings. Sitcoms, soap operas and most talk shows are a bad habit for mindless people.

•Choose your friends. Don’t let them choose you.

•Try to set reasonable long and short term goals, but don’t let them blind you to new opportunities that may come along.

•Register to vote and vote in every election. It is far more productive than complaining about the way things are done. Pick candidates, preferably Democrats, and do volunteer work. My wife (Jo Ann Denley) and I were activists for J.P. Coleman in his second race for governor, before we were old enough to vote. We lost that one, but it makes you feel better that you tried to change the course of history. Campus politics is a good place to start if you don’t like the status quo.

Joel McNeece is publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at joelmcneece@gmail.com.