Welcome to all of the 6,000-plus University of Colorado Boulder freshmen — and the 36,000 total students — who have arrived in Boulder for the fall semester. Together, as a city unto yourselves, you would be among the largest 25 cities in Colorado by population.
I urge you to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to pursue your studies at one of the nation’s top schools, and also hope you experience Boulder’s remarkable beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities.
What an exciting, frightening, fast-moving era we all live in! For many of you, your studies will give you competency in economic sectors that didn’t exist 20 to 30 years ago.
Come your graduation day in May 2026, grab your diplomas as you leave town and take your place in society, and find a job (preferably in your field of study). But take comfort: In case you must return to your parent’s basement and flip burgers, the minimum wage keeps on rising!
Seriously, with Boulder’s affordable housing shortage, and increased traffic congestion, four years should be more than enough time for you to figure out what path you want to start your journey. I’m putting you on notice: ”slip out the back, Jack,” “make a new plan, Stan,” none of you are on the six-year tract; pick up your diploma and “drop off the key, Lee,” then use your EcoPass and “hop on the bus, Gus” and “get yourself free.” Thank Paul Simon for that advice!
Perhaps you’re a problem-solver. If so, take your pick:
Human actions or inactions, confirm that climate change is wreaking havoc with high temperatures, lost water supplies, forest fires and melting icebergs. Perhaps your fate is to make a great discovery that will prevent further damage to the environment.
Your generation insists that people be more responsible and socially aware by protecting both civil rights and voting rights, that we recycle far more than we do now, that we recognize mental health needs to be addressed, advocate for the transition to electric cars, that we fight back against bullies who pick on the weak, domestic terrorism and more.
Most of you were born in 2007 or 2008 and belong to Generation Z (for Zoomers, all 68 million of them and close to 20% of our U.S. total population), comprised of those born roughly between 1997 and 2012.
The endless rollout of new technology tools has heavily influenced you. Between burying your noses in your phones, using TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat (but not Facebook) to express emotions without words and believing far too many inaccurate postings on the internet, you’ve got us older folks worried about your judgment and critical thinking abilities. Prove us wrong.
You are keenly aware of the major threats to the security of our country, created by present wars and threats of future war and a global climate crisis, while many increasingly question the validity of science. Well, facts matter.
You have been shaped by domestic terrorism, gun violence, and race and gender equality.
CU officials greeted you when you arrived on campus. They wished you good luck. And though I agree with that sentiment, I’m also going to wish you a little “hard luck.” The effects of the virus during part of your high school years were only a harbinger of your future life’s challenges.
I say it would help you to live through some tough experiences besides the pandemic. Why? Because they will make you stronger, more humble, sensitive and empathetic, more capable of surviving on your own and better able to handle life’s curveballs.
Eventually, you’ll thank me; just do so before graduation in May 2026, not after!
The sooner you learn that life is sometimes unfair, the better you’ll be able to cope with it.
Learn some of these life lessons outside the classroom:
• If you’re not a minority, take the time to learn what they have gone through and continue to endure as they encounter prejudice. Your tolerance and compassion levels will grow from this.
• Periodically, find yourself out of money. Perhaps it will steer you to enter public service to help the underprivileged.
• Fail at something big. You will learn humility, as well as how to better prepare yourself for future challenges
• Endure deep emotional pain about something, whether it’s a romantic breakup or losing someone close to you. This will help you learn that people’s pain may not show on the outside.
• Learn to be comfortable and not afraid to be alone. You will better learn how to be comfortable with yourself. That will increase the likelihood of success and personal joy in your life.
• Lose confidence so that you feel you have little or no control. The lesson is not to try to control everything in your life. Let go! Things happen generally how they are meant to be. We are powerless over so much of life’s events.
• Question yourself — often — asking, “What is my purpose in life?” Keep doing so until you find comfortable answers.
I wish you success in the classroom — but even more victories in your personal development.
In my journey I have found that “if you lead with your heart, it is the one sure thing you can always trust, your road will always be revealed.”
Jim Martin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org