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A gentle plea to graduates: Explore, but then come home

Nobody asked me to deliver a high school commencement address today but, if they had, I would have condensed my bit of worldly advice into two words:...

Nobody asked me to deliver a high school commencement address today but, if they had, I would have condensed my bit of worldly advice into two words:

"Come home."

Not as in, "Come home to your parents' place, lie on the couch watching reality TV and ask your mom to wash your clothes and make you supper."

"Come home," as in just the opposite of "Go away," which is what we in North Dakota and western Minnesota have subtly and not so subtly told our high school graduates for years.

Of course, there's good reason we want you to leave your cozy surroundings: There's still much to learn, and traveling and seeing what's "out there" is often the best education a person can get.

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But, after you've seen the world and what it has to offer, you should come home to North Dakota and western Minnesota.

"Why?" you ask.

Well, some of it is for selfish reasons on the part of those much older than you.

See, we have this huge issue facing our area: A big bunch of our folks are getting too old to work. We need you to do it.

A recent census estimate showed that when the bulk of baby boomers retire in five or six years, we're going to have a worker-shortage crisis on our hands. Believe me, if jobs aren't plentiful now, they will be then, especially in certain fields like medicine and social services.

But aside from that and other reasons people often cite about way of life and proximity to family and all those things you don't hold dear right now but will later: Think of all the opportunities.

Where there is a need, there is an opportunity. And not only will plenty of jobs open up, but salaries will rise as employers must fight harder for well-trained and educated workers.

As salaries and opportunities rise, the area will become more attractive to workers from elsewhere, including those from other countries.

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If you wanted to leave the area in order to seek social diversity, I urge you to come home and let it follow you here, because it will.

Most of all, though, I urge you to come home to make a great future for yourself and for your future family.

Our area is changing.

Despite farm fields stretching to the horizon, we are urban - more people live in cities than in rural areas.

Technology is the future of where we live, right alongside fields, farm tractors and wind turbines. The isolation of the Great Plains is no longer a factor. The obstacles no longer exist as they did when pioneering and entrepreneurial folks fled to the Plains to make a future.

A lot of skeptics see nothing but wide open spaces in every direction. But with a blank canvas, any picture is possible.

Those of you who graduate today or next week have a huge role in determining what that picture will look like. It can be anything you imagine.

Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum. Reach him at (701) 241-5579 or mvonpinnon@forumcomm.com

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