I suspect you all can now see the light at the end of the tunnel - graduation day coming into plain view, and your high school careers ending. And, perhaps you think you can, at this juncture, relax, lay back and cool your jets for a few years. Don't count on it. You are, ready or not, about to face the real world with all its struggles, triumphs and failures - the good, the bad and the ugly of life in the 21st century.

What I want you all to know is that it will be hard, challenging, but totally worth the work and effort. Lots of experiences in my life have assured me that what I'm telling you here is a fact. You must be ready to take on the world, attack it, be on offense, not defense, with everything you've got. And, if you do fall or falter, get right back up, brush yourself off and plow into it all again.

I was reminded of this central truism just the other night, as I have in past years when my tank is pinned on 'empty' (and it has been for awhile now). I took a few hours off, slipped a disc into the machine and watched one of my favorite movies, 'Men In Black' (the first one), starring two of my favorite actors, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

You remember that Will Smith's character (James Edwards - that's how he gets the MIB code name of Agent 'J') is being recruited into MIB by Agent K (Kay - Kevin Brown), Tommy Lee Jones' character, and little by little Edwards is exposed to the reality of the alien presence on earth - 'a few of them cab drivers, but not as many as you might think.' These two professionals talked the entire night, ultimately winding up, very early in the morning, on a bench along the Hudson River. Kay gives Edwards his MIB card with instructions to meet him downtown later that day. As Kay is walking away, Will's character calls out, 'Hey! Is it worth it?' Kay responds, 'Oh Yeah. It's worth it, if you're strong enough!'

So my question to you seniors is, 'Are you?' Are you strong enough to know that there really is a place for you in this world, regardless of what you might have seen, read or heard? Are you strong enough to persevere when things get tough and it might look bleak? Personally for me, I know you are! So, if you join up with life's 'post high school MIB team,' work hard, accept some set-backs, but never let up; never give in; never surrender your goals, your philosophy or your vision; and make it a point to 'rock the boat' once in awhile. You'll do just fine and have great lives. I'll bet a Coke on it!

And, you'll learn tons of new things every day, stuff that will very likely change everything as we know it on our little blue planet (and beyond) - for the better because of what you'll learn and then do with that knowledge. Because, and of this I am certain, you seniors are smart.

Early in this MIB classic film, Agent Kay summed it all up perfectly for Edwards (and for me, too), when he told him, 'A 'person' is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it! Fifteen hundred years ago 'everybody knew' the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago 'everybody knew' the Earth was flat, and 15 minutes ago, 'you knew' that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow!'

I'll see you all at graduation.

Barry Albertson is a member of the Tigard-Tualatin School Board.

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