Editorial: Reach beyond your circumstance

  • Enoch Aside, left, and other grads toss their caps during the Naperville North High School graduation ceremony on Sunday.

    Enoch Aside, left, and other grads toss their caps during the Naperville North High School graduation ceremony on Sunday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 6/8/2021 2:11 PM

Imagine what it is like to grow up in poverty, perhaps with undereducated parents working two jobs, doing the best they can but limited in time, money and opportunity?

Then imagine what it is like living in wealth, where the family lineage is educated at the finest schools with exposure to influential people able to open doors.


We are not setting the stage here for a discussion of income inequality, although that certainly is a worthwhile topic.

Instead, let this be a talk of self-imposed limits -- a message to the Class of 2021 but also to all the classes to follow and to all those who would advise them, parents and teachers and mentors of all sorts.

Imagine what success looks like to a person in that first circumstance.

Then imagine how much different it looks to a person in the second.

Most of us grow up somewhere between those two perspectives, but no matter where we fall, we are limited by our views of what is possible and our definitions of success.

Consider the expectations of someone who grows up to become the family's first to graduate college. Consider how someone like that might chose a college more or less at random, might choose a degree with little deliberation, might be satisfied after graduation to find a job, not a particular job or at a particular place.

No doubt someone like that would have a generally successful life. But would it reach its potential?

Consider this: Do you think that person's aim would be higher and pursued with more precision if that person were someone born into a more accomplished family?

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All of us are, to one degree or another, products of birth. A Third-World child is going to have fewer advantages than a child born in the U.S. And the child of a bricklayer is going to start out with fewer advantages than the child, say, of Jeff Bezos or J.B. Pritzker,

Certainly, resources, opportunity and societal prejudices play a significant role in these kinds of things.

But it's not just that.

Those different circumstances also provide for different visions. The vision to see what's possible. And the vision to see what's required to turn possibility into reality.

If we are aware that our vision is obscured by our circumstance, we don't have to be blinded by it.

To the Class of 2021, and to those classes that follow, we say: Dream big, Live a big life.

Open your eyes to possibilities.

Don't place limits on your aspirations. Figure out what you want to do -- whether you know that intuitively today or will need years of exploration -- and then figure out what you need to achieve it.


Don't hesitate to consult with those who have perspectives you lack, who can offer advice that your upbringing and circumstances perhaps don't.

Life truly can be limitless. The world truly can your oyster. You truly can do almost anything your skills and devotion permit you to do.

But first, you have to be able to see the possibility.

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