Opinion: Go forth new graduates and make this world a better place

Colleges and universities throughout Colorado are holding their graduation ceremonies, with thousands of students heading out to face life’s challenges. I’ve taken great joy through the years in urging about-to-be college graduates to go ahead, start the next phase of your lives and experience life’s tests.

For those who snicker, thinking the students will get a shock upon leaving their Ivory Tower world, guess again. That concept disappeared a long time ago thanks to endless news cycles, social media overload and the reality of the world’s difficulties creeping onto campuses. Good, I say. Let life teach alongside faculty, taking its rightful place in our community of learning and offering its many powerful and long-lasting lessons.

It’s not that the students are exiting a precious cocoon of learning and nurturing into the real world. They’re simply traveling from one part of the real world to another.

Consider all the 2024 college graduates have witnessed over the past four years: COVID-19 meant freshmen missed some of the rites of the academic world. College sports are undergoing tremendous change with women’s sports growing fast, football team schedules turning chaotic, transfer portals opening up for those who want to ply their trade at a different school, and student-athletes quickly mastering how to make money from the evolving system. George Floyd’s killing in Minnesota pushed Americans to yet again examine just how dedicated they are to civil rights for all.

Their four years are ending with the same uncertainty as they began. Today, we have the heartbreaking war in the Mideast, with deaths having climbed to more than 30,000, and marchers who favor Palestinians and condemn Jewish people. Russia brutally invaded Ukraine, with no end in sight. Vladimir Putin seems determined to reunite the USSR.
Thanks to the revolutionary world of Artificial Intelligence (AI), ChatGPT is now thriving.

People can work remotely in many jobs and live almost anywhere. Amazon and other sites can deliver almost anything to your front door. Every day seems to bring another technological reveal. Sadly, people have abused the privilege by creating phony videos about innocent folks. Let’s research how to prevent that from happening.

Climate change has gotten worse, but at least we’re seeking wiser ways of living. Voting rights for all qualified voters are under attack. The graduates witnessed an unprecedented coup in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.

I challenge the class of 2024 to the following: Acknowledge that you should reach out and help improve the lives of others. See the bright side and the many opportunities of living in a well-developed nation.

Reject the negativity that too many people wear around their necks. You have completed an impressive four-year program, preparing you to get out there so challenge the status quo and reject the naysayers.

Push office-holders to support a free college (or trade) education for those who want it. Let’s not provide free education for some and not all. Support elected officials who have proven that they understand our rich resources and the role that can play in giving everyone a chance.

How can I best honor and salute the thousands of students graduating from all of the state’s institutions of higher learning? By urging them to turn around the arc of history for
the better.

The best today’s college graduates can do is to go out and make use of what they’ve learned and experienced in a world that is spinning and changing right along with them.

I hope that Americans’ obsession with money and power will not dampen their desire to pursue their passions, and that their educational experiences foster their willingness to take risks. Let’s hope that the sense of community they experienced in college won’t be replaced by an overzealous desire to excel on the job -– to the detriment of family and self.

Good luck and Godspeed.

Jim Martin is a past regent of the University of Colorado. He can be reached at

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