(Published in the Telegraph Herald, May 19, 2009)
Subject: Last but not least
Nearly 11 years ago, as your oldest sibling headed out to start college, I wrote a column to her. In the halting style of newspaper headlines, it was titled, "To first child to leave 'nest.'" I offered fatherly advice, some of which she might have actually considered. And she turned out OK -- so far.
While the "first" events in a family typically receive most of the attention -- the first to graduate, the first to be married, the first to become a parent and so on -- the "last" has special standing as well.
A few days ago, you became the last of you four Cooper kids to secure a bachelor's degree. That all four of you managed to do it in exactly four years makes your Mom and me especially proud. It is testament to your focus and your hard work (and our declaration that we wouldn't pay for extra semesters).
You "walked" in a graduation ceremony. You moved into an apartment. You secured a challenging job (applause). And now you have the rest of your life before you.
Unlike your sister, who received her Dad's sage advice as she started college, you get yours as you finish college. Here are five thoughts. They might be too little too late, but at least now you can't say I didn't tell you. I have it on the record.
* In virtually any situation, things are rarely as good or as bad as they seem at the time.
* You have spent years in the rarefied environment of academia. Your job continues that. In the "real world," you will encounter many people without that level of education and acumen (such as newspaper editors). Watch out for us. And be patient with us.
* The point above notwithstanding, know that otherwise intelligent people make bad decisions, too.
* Few who don't buy insurance wind up happy about it.
* Save your money and, despite recent history, invest it. You have plenty of time to recover from downturns. Rainy days do come. And so do children, who will need a good education -- and perhaps a little fatherly advice now and then.