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The graduate

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.
June 12, 2013 1:49:05 PM PDT
We hurdle through life, often not pausing to fully appreciate all that we should. That's ok of course, because life is all about moving head.

Or, to quote Bob Dylan, those not busy being born are busy dying. But tomorrow is one of those days where it's okay to pause, and appreciate. And my family will do that. Not so much because my 3-year-old is matriculating out of her first year of pre-school, although that's a big deal to be sure. But mostly because my 18-year-old son is graduating high school.

Not that I didn't expect him to finish of course. He's been given a remarkably wonderful gift - a great education, and I know he understands the huge responsibility that goes with it. It's his job to make a contribution to society, and the world, in whatever form he chooses.

He gets it, and he knows that so many kids don't ever finish high school - an estimated 1/3 of all students drop out. That amounts to about a million dropouts every year, and, according to the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, it costs the country more than $200 billion a year in lost wages, taxes and productivity. The job opportunity for far too many drop outs ranges from working the counter at McDonald's to a life of crime. In other words, the choices ain't good. It's no accident that more than two-thirds of prisoners are school dropouts.

Can someone please explain to me why the law that requires every kid under the age of 16 to stay in school isn't raised to 18? I'm just sayin'.

See? I can't help myself. Here I start talking about how wonderful a day it's going to be, and I take a left turn and talk about school dropouts. The hard truth is that those who make it through - and especially those who graduate from great schools - are lucky, and they owe something back. So my family and I will celebrate all that tomorrow, as my son takes the podium and gets his diploma to the tears and smiles of the family that adores and respects him. And then he sets off on his next adventure.

If I were talking to his class tomorrow as commencement speaker, I'd tell them to be as curious and bold as they could be - especially for the next decade, learning what floats their boat, and learning what doesn't. I'd tell them to avoid going into debt when they're young, embrace the uncertainty of what lies ahead (for example, I didn't start in television news till I was 37 years old - so one never knows what's going to happen in life), and always - ALWAYS - ask for what you want, otherwise you'll never get it.

I've had to think about all this because, as fate would have it, I'm the back-up speaker for the designated commencement speaker tomorrow. Anderson Cooper graduated from my son's high school, and he's agreed to give the commencement address. Of course, with a guy who hops on a plane at the drop of a breaking news story, there's always the chance that something could happen somewhere in the world, right? So the school has asked me to be prepared to step in. (But now that I think about it, if it's a big story, I'll have to be at work too!)

Anyway, I've written a speech that I especially hope doesn't embarrass my son in front of all those people - and a speech that I'm pretty sure I won't deliver. A strange feeling to write something that will likely live on only on my hard drive.

When my son was born, and I cut his umbilical cord a moment or two later, he was crying. Owen, I whispered in his ear, it's Dad, it's okay, you'll be all right. And he stopped crying.

He hasn't always listened to me so easily. But he has when it mattered. And most importantly, he listens to himself.

I'm so proud of him.

So I'll be off tomorrow, pending some huge breaking news story, celebrating my son's big day. This column will resume on Monday.

I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11, when we'll have the breaking news of the night, Meteorologist Lee Goldberg's storm AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports.

BILL RITTER

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