By Monsignor William J. Linder
President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address took a long view into our nation’s future. With his second term drawing to a close, the President focused on the road ahead and the hope that it holds for America.
For our future to contain any semblance of hope, particularly for our young people, we must set a laser-like focus on creating opportunities for them, namely in two areas: education and jobs.
Many years ago when I was a young man, I worked in the construction field, building housing and roads. This paved my way to pay for a college education. Before construction, I did a stint working in retail at a men’s clothing store.
On-the-job experience ingrained in me a sense of self-sufficiency. Upon fulfilling my duties to my boss’ satisfaction, I took home a paycheck. My employers paid money, not promises. As a result, I graduated college without being saddled with debt.
The state of our education system is dire as well. With public schools choking in the grip of teachers’ unions and mandated testing, it’s no wonder that our students are emerging less and less prepared to compete in a global economy. In an effort to support our youth and their academic careers, I established the Monsignor William J. Linder Scholarship Fund, which financially supports hard-working teens as they attend top-flight private schools in the area.
In the President’s speech, he addressed the very real need “to make college affordable for every American.” I could not agree more that the cost of quality education, both at the secondary and postsecondary level, has become absurdly costly and must be kept in check. But let me be clear that, on the other side of the coin, we must focus as a nation on creating real job opportunities for eager young workers who aim to put themselves through school.
There are many times that a lesson learned on the job can have a far greater impact than an objective recited in the classroom (which is not to say that education is not valuable, of course).
Here at New Community, our vocational training programs offer students training in a broad range of in-demand skills in industries such as health care, culinary arts, automotive, retail and building trades. Our young people must be equipped with the skills to forge a successful future for themselves. And our responsibility is to lay the foundation for the future generation.
We must build for tomorrow.