We’d like a few moments with the high school graduates of 2018. The rest of you can tag along, but this is meant for those teens ready to toss caps in the air. This isn’t goodbye, exactly, but encouragement for you graduates to help the rest of us do better. 

These are confusing times to be free of school and parents. The country’s economy is getting stronger, but pay isn’t keeping up. The nation’s government is as transfixed by a porn star as it is by policy towards North Korea. Assassination of character is unrelenting on social media. People spout on issues they know nothing about and can be quick to make venomous comments, ignominy then their legacy. 

And then along comes the Class of 2018 for Malheur County. Thank goodness. At the Malheur Enterprise, we grew curious what this year’s seniors think. We wanted to reach beyond those recognized as valedictorians and salutatorians, though they deserve respect for their success. But we wanted to know how more of you assessed the state of affairs – at school, in your lives, and in the future. 

The responses were, simply, impressive. You revealed to us shared values, no matter if you were in Vale, Adrian, Nyssa, Ontario, or Harper. You didn’t give us flip answers. You didn’t make outrageous comments or jot mean thoughts. Instead, you showed us a thoughtfulness that should hearten the community. 

Many of you shared worries that are no different than what your parents and other adults in the community hold. You sense, as do we, that civility sometimes no longer appears cool. A sampling from what we published last week: 

“We are so sure that we’re right that we block ourselves off from anybody who has a different opinion instead of analyzing their argument and taking any points they might have into account.” – Alyssander Moncada-Robles, Nyssa. 

“People are too quick to give their opinion, instead of help with a solution.” – Hailey Joslin, Harper. 

“The most troublesome thing about the U.S. is the lack of empathy we have with each other. We see something on the news and are quick to judge without taking the proper time to see how other groups of people might feel.” – Levi Romero, Vale. 

“Nobody seems to really want to get their hands dirty and actually improve things. They just want to blame other people for what’s wrong.” – Roni Rindlisbacher, Vale.

You, the Class of 2018, can do something about this. You don’t have to surrender your awareness that this behavior isn’t right. Each of you, in your way, can refuse to be part of today’s contentious tone. You can elect, as you should, to hold firm to your standards. You can be civil, kind, temperate. That doesn’t mean being soft and obedient. It means acting toward others in ways you will be proud of. Engage in debate, sure. But don’t win at all costs. Listen to the overheated rhetoric, and then help cool it with your own resolve. For it is this shift in national character that is so important to the future – yours and ours. We cannot, should not, continue to splinter as a people, wrecking the very institutions and ideals that have carried this country so long and so well. You don’t have to follow, but instead use your own idealism to lead us away from this course. 

With the resurgence of national character will come the resurgence of hope and of progress. Many of you wrote of your dreams – of raising a family, holding a good job, being good citizens. You wrote of helping your community and your country. You wrote with the optimism of young people whose spirit has not been sanded down. 

Make these not words, but your actions. In your answers, you exhibited maturity and wisdom that might surprise some. Good. We encourage you to hold on to your visions, your dreams, and your civility. And lastly, we ask you to charge into life with gusto. Go surprise us all. -- LZ