Tryon: Youthful celebrations rekindle sense of hope

From Herald Tribune, May 24, 2019

One of the best parts of my job is that I sometimes get out of the office.

Not that I mind writing at my desk, conversing with reasonable readers or talking with my longtime associate, Mike Feely; I value those parts of a workday. (As for the keyboard-pushing and mouse-moving drudgery associated with modern newspaper editing, that’s a different story.)

Two recent out-of-office experiences reminded me why it’s important and invigorating to break away from the desk.

One occurred last Friday. Thanks to an invitation from Donal O’Shea, president of New College of Florida, I attended the honors institution’s graduation. I’d long heard about the out-of-the-box thinking that prevailed at New College graduations — where graduates generally (but not exclusively) forgo caps and gowns in favor of eclectic outfits. This year, for instance, one grad wore a shark’s outfit, another donned an American Revolution-style uniform, yet another dressed in the garb of her native Colombia, and others outfitted themselves as they wished.

The ceremony had fewer political statements than I expected. The featured student speaker talked more about the “adversity” faced by the class of 2019 than I thought necessary — certainly, many of the students had overcome personal hurdles but, still, they were all graduating from an honors college at a relatively affordable price — and some of the preening across the stage seemed a bit, well, self-absorbed.

But any negative perceptions on my part were outweighed by the joy and exhilaration displayed by the graduates, their classmates, family members and friends. The energy was intoxicating, especially for someone who came of age in an era of pomp and circumstance.

This week, I attended the Herald-Tribune’s fourth annual Best of Preps event, which honors high school athletes. My colleagues in the marketing department and a team from our parent company transformed Robarts Arena into a venue with cool lighting, jumbo screens and a large stage that helped create a buzz from the moment athletes, parents and sponsors walked in.

We’ve had celebrity speakers, who’ve added panache, at each event. Yet they have not matched the energy — and optimism — in the room, a reminder that there is nothing quite like being young, successful and optimistic about the future, despite the knowledge of challenges to come. Even the awards that honor athletes who face severe challenges have generated what can become elusive in adulthood — hope.

So, thanks to all these teenagers and young adults for rekindling, even temporarily, a sense of optimism that transcends the ages.

Tom Tryon is opinion editor.

Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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