First off, we’d like to say congratulations. Whether it took you 10 years or four, if you’re one of the 1,000 students who crossed the stage at Saturday’s commencement ceremony, you survived the unforgiving world of higher education, and you’re one degree – and a whole world of wisdom – better off than you were on your first day at Grand Valley State University.

It’s a tough time for graduates, not just at GVSU, but nationwide. With record unemployment numbers that seem to improve only marginally with time, recent grads are staring into the face of a real world that looks much different than they’ve always imagined it would be.

There’s a very real reality out there that it’s time to face, graduates: you will probably not get the job you thought you would right out of the gates, some will not even get the internship you hoped you would, and many of you will probably have to move back into your parents house and sleep in the bedroom you thought you’d never return to.

However, this is not the time to dwell on where you might not be, but rather, the time to think about how far you’ve already made it – about how many hardships you’ve already endured, and how many obstacles you’ve already overcome.

Commencement speaker, Susan Ford Bales, did a great job surmising the attitude that our generation faces.

“Graduates, I’m sure you’re aware that pundits and social critics are often critical of your generation,” she said. “They claim this new generation is unlike the so-called greatest generation. They gave so often, sacrificed so much, and your generation, they say, is selfish and unwilling to sacrifice.”

But here’s the thing: Despite (or, perhaps in spite) of those record unemployment numbers, record amounts of student loan debt and negativity from the people who got us into this mess, we have worked – and continue to work – tirelessly toward a degree that so many people have told us will not mean anything, just because we believe in a better world.

And if you can’t find it in your heart to go out there and do it for an ideology, then do it because you’ve got something to prove. Do it because no matter how impossible it seems, you’ve already defeated impossible odds – and that, all by itself, is a testament to what you are capable of.