Nathan Hansen: You’re on your own, seniors
I came to a bit of an uncomfortable realization a couple of summers ago. As I went through the paperwork associated with hiring our most recent high school interns, I noticed they were born remarkably close to the day I started my job at what was then a pair of weekly newspapers.
Last summer’s intern, who will graduate Saturday from Rosemount High School, was born the same month I wrote my first newspaper story. I feel safe saying she has been far more successful in the years since that day than the story ever was. It was about a bank. It was not my best work. It wouldn’t even have been one of those interns’ best work.
There are large numbers of students in this year’s senior class who have not lived in a world in which anyone other than me has been editor of the local papers in Farmington and Rosemount. They probably don’t know that, though. I’m told young people don’t read newspapers.
We started a journey together, these seniors and me — they towards high school graduation and all that lies beyond and me toward years of writing columns about biking and robots and businesses where you can pay to cuddle with a stranger.
I feel like that gives us a special bond, which makes it that much more discouraging that even though I bring it up every year at this time, both of our local high schools have once again declined to invite me to speak at their graduation ceremonies. Year after year, graduation planners in Farmington and Rosemount choose to put the focus on students and teachers instead of on the guy who sometimes hangs out with a camera at the edges of pep fests.
I know. It doesn’t make any sense to me, either.
Normally in this space I would follow up my feelings of neglect with some of the sound advice I might otherwise have offered in my commencement address. It was like I was auditioning for the following year’s ceremony. But now I’m starting to think that’s part of my problem. Why buy the cow, after all, if you can read the cow’s commencement speech for free?
Also, why would you call me a cow? That’s just rude and now maybe I don’t want to speak at your graduation anyway.
So, the free advice train stops here. If this year’s senior classes want to know what I have to say about their accomplishments (there were some, I’m pretty sure) or about what awaits them once they leave the halls of their respective high schools (lots of stuff. Some good. Some bad.) they will have to ask me themselves. I promise no more than 90 percent of it will be recycled from previous columns, and it will be largely free from cliches.
I want to do what I can for these seniors. We have a lot in common. They didn’t know anything when they came into the world, and I was completely new to the world of journalism. I could eat solid foods, but there were some other areas where we weren’t all that different.
Before I started working here about the only interview I’d ever conducted was in high school, when I had to talk to a political candidate for a social studies class. Most of the other students talked to one of our school board members, who happened to have a daughter in the class. I talked to a woman named Bea Mooney, a retired nurse who was a perennial candidate for Governor and who claims she once tried to convince Ronald Reagan to make her his running mate.
I don’t remember how long I had to work here before I interviewed anybody odder than that, but it probably wasn’t as long as you’d expect.
Also like this year’s seniors, there’s a decent chance I’ll end up living in my mom’s basement five years from now.
Whatever happens next, these seniors have accomplished a lot since I took this job. They have many more exciting things waiting for them.
Congratulations to everyone.