IN a world marred by the most vile terrorism attacks, increasing selfishness, and a growing divide between the rich and the poor, what do we offer to our school leavers?
Like many parents of Year 12 students, I watched my own daughter graduate from Year 12 last Friday, after a year of extreme devotion to her studies.
As a father, I couldn't have been prouder and happier as I saw her, beaming with friends during a photo shoot in her formal dress at a local botanic gardens.
The experience was repeated when I saw her honoured along with other students from her college at the Valedictory Service, followed by scenes of celebration at Mooloolaba Beach.
In the past week, much of my attention has been focused on the Paris terrorism attacks, followed by those in Mali.
It left me wondering what sort of world are we sending our kids into?
But as parents, I am firmly convinced, we need to offer our children one thing: Hope.
As individuals, they have the power to make a difference.
We all do.
We can't live our lives in fear.
To do so means Islamic State and its vile exponents win.
We need to celebrate the potential of our young people - not just those who are gifted in the classroom or on the sporting field - but those who give their all to succeed.
Bruce Campbell, the head of Nambour Christian College, summed it up well in his final address to students.
"In our society today, the 'superstars' are held up as heroes to be emulated, but I would like to focus on the individuals who meet their own challenges with a strength of character and integrity,'' he said.
"To illustrate this point I would like to quote Simon Longstaff, Director of the St. James Ethics Centre:
"Some think that heroes are forged in the white heat of the dangerous moment. But there is another kind of hero, the person of quiet decency whose achievement is only built over an entire career.
"We are struck by the intensity of lightning, yet fail to mention the thunder that rolls on into the distance long after the lightning's moment has passed.
"We are captured by the tumultuous descent of the waterfall while the steady progress of the river is ignored.
"And we marvel at the ocean's power, unaware of the fact that we stand upon ground claimed for us by the silent witness of the ancient cliff. In each case the spectacular is only made possible by the patient and mundane."
"I have enjoyed watching many of you battle away at your subjects, your sport, your music, overcome personal challenges, volunteer for the service learning projects simply to help others and make a difference. Those who did not turn a blind eye to something that was not right."
His final prayer of advice to the students was simple.
"May you walk in boldness with a strength of character and make a difference to the lives of those with whom you travel."
In the end, it's good advice for all of us.
We should remain true to ourselves.
As a country, we should remain true to our own values of a fair go, respect for others, and tolerance without being naive to the real threat of those who would try to impose their values on us.
Mark Furler is APN Australian Regional Media's group digital editor. He has been a journalist on the Sunshine Coast for almost 30 years.
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