TERRE HAUTE —
Numbers could flood my brain today, but they won’t.
True, new statistics released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau tell us that 54,365,177 Americans hold a four-year college degree, or 27.5 percent of the nation’s adult population. It’s the latest addition to that list, though, that will dominate my thoughts.
I could dwell on the cost of a university education, which — as we know quite well — leaves graduates of a four-year public college with an average student-loan debt of $25,000. That’s real, but the only bottom line concerning my family today will be the one bearing his name on the front of a Purdue diploma.
There’s legitimate cause to fret about the job market my son will enter, with nearly 10 percent of the labor force out of work. He’s well-equipped for the challenge, though. The unemployment rate for folks with a bachelor’s degree stands at 5 percent. Plus, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists his field of study, civil engineering, as one of the top growth jobs for the coming decade.
Besides, he and other “echo boomers” — the children of baby boomers — came of age in an era when tough economic times were the norm, from the 9/11 collapse through the Great Recession. I like his chances. I’ve seen him handle steep odds before.
Five winters ago, he broke his leg — just below his knee — at the outset of his final season as a high school wrestler. For a senior, the temptation to just call it a career would be strong. Wrestling is hard enough for a healthy athlete. Three 2-minute periods can seem like an eternity. There’s no teammate to rescue you when some behemoth has your face squashed into the mat and your arm wrenched behind your back. Bloody noses and lips, black eyes and swollen ears are routine. So are ringworm outbreaks.
Oh, and there’s also the small matter of maintaining a consistent weight. Few teenagers are willing to say goodbye to pizza for five months, or eat a nice, fresh, delicious salad on Thanksgiving. But to be a wrestling team’s 189-pounder, you must weigh, yes, 189 pounds. There’s a weigh-in before every meet, and scales don’t lie.
The kid didn’t quit.
Instead, he spent most of his team’s practices lifting weights. He couldn’t use his leg for almost two months, but his upper body looked like one of those super hero Halloween costumes.
Finally, once his rehab stretch was complete, he got cleared to get back on the mat. And, at the start, he literally ended up on the mat more often than usual. The year before, he’d led his team in pins (a victory earned by holding down both of your opponent’s shoulders). Now, with his legs not yet fully conditioned, he was struggling to win. That’s another beautiful aspect of wrestling — you learn humility, in front of a gym full of moms, dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters, girlfriends and best buds. He absorbed the setbacks with class.
By the time the sectional rolled around, he’d lost as many matches as he’d won. Quite a change from his junior season. When the sectional coaches met to select the seedings for each wrestler in each weight class, they slotted my son seventh out of eight competitors, or next-to-last. Given his gradual recovery and record, you couldn’t argue with their assessment.
He decided to disprove them, though.
With amazed smiles, my wife and I, and his kid brother and sister, watched him knock off higher seeded sectional rivals, one by one. The video of the final seconds of his victory in the championship match looks as shaky as “The Blair Witch Project” because my wife and I couldn’t stand still. The image of him jumping with a beaming smile and jubilantly punching the air will be etched into my brain forever. Not because he succeeded in a sport, but because he didn’t give up when life got rougher.
After seeing that, I knew he could tackle college.
On graduation day, whether in May or December, parents flip through a mental scrapbook of the 16-plus years it takes to reach this point … That uneasy wave through the bus window on the first day of school. Turning plastic pop bottles into science fair projects. A squeaking saxophone, warming up on the night before the Christmas concert. Creating a driveable contraption known as a “super mileage car” for a high school competition. Frantic searches for lost wrestling shoes at 5:30 a.m. Packing lunches. Hustling to get to parent-teacher conferences. Honor rolls. Groundings (just a couple). Driver’s ed. Heading off to college. Late-night calls about a course from hell.
And then, after the last final exam of college ends, an excited text saying, “School’s out forever!”
Each mother or father of America’s 54,365,177 college graduates probably reacted differently when their son or daughter received a diploma, assuming they lived long enough to see it happen. Some likely smiled with quiet dignity. Others may have shed tears of pride, joy and relief. As for me, today, I might just jump up, punch the air and smile.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE —
Numbers could flood my brain today, but they won’t.
- Mark Bennett Opinion
MARK BENNETT: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
MARK BENNETT: Blessings of a long, cold, snowy winter
As spring, summer arrive, Hoosiers will appreciate icy months (well, maybe a little)
MARK BENNETT: Healing Indiana’s Achilles’ heel
Illinois served as the easy target.
At that moment.
MARK BENNETT: Yeah, yeah, yeah... For some grownups, first impression not so fab
We’re pretty smart here in middle America.
Our DNA carries the common-sense chromosome. From birth, Midwestern culture begins honing us into the most rational and perceptive of human beings. Sure, our prisons are full, but generally, we mean well. And we’re wise.
MARK BENNETT: Remembering the less glitzy days on Manning’s road to the Super Bowl
A blur of memories.
They’ll flicker fast and furious tonight, like a spinning Rolodex, when Peyton Manning runs onto the MetLife Stadium turf in Jersey City, as a Denver Bronco, playing for a Super Bowl ring against the Seattle Seahawks. Most Hauteans will experience flashbacks, too.
MARK BENNETT: A lengthening climb
The American economy is improving.
Confidence has risen since the government shutdown by the polarized Congress last fall. Indicators in various sectors show promise.
MARK BENNETT: Tackling entrenched economic problems could brighten local forecast
Without a DeLorean, there’s no going back to 1995.
MARK BENNETT: What is Indiana’s image in the eyes of the world?
A bus pulled up to the curb near the riverfront in downtown Chicago. An unusual advertisement was painted on its side.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer
Bobby Leonard symbolized the feisty competitive flair of the old ABA.
MARK BENNETT: Letter from coach’s young daughter put pro sports, Christmas in perspective
Most of us sympathize with people forced to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That list is growing, now that Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday, causing retail employees to join doctors, nurses, hospital staffers, police, firefighters, emergency responders, military members, convenience store clerks, road crews and media to spend holidays at work. Ideally, we’ll feel gratitude when we require their services on those special days. Too often, their sacrificed time gets taken for granted.
Terry Leonard wanted the executives to remember her dad, and their family, at Christmastime.
And, amazingly, they listened.
MARK BENNETT: A degree of success
Determination to get that diploma Larry Bird’s deepest bond with fellow ISU alums, students
MARK BENNETT: Brad Fenton and friends set dominos in motion to make Larry Bird statue a reality
The idea has been out there for awhile, floating.
Locals in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s would say, “They need to put up a statue of Larry Bird. I mean, one of the all-time greatest basketball players played right here in Terre Haute at Indiana State University.”
MARK BENNETT: Next chapter set to begin
Use the classic Tommy Tutone song to memorize the following number …
MARK BENNETT: One-ring blues?
Minutes before kickoff tonight, the Lucas Oil Stadium tech crew should play Sam Cooke’s classic, “(What a) Wonderful World” over the sound system.
MARK BENNETT: At Peace in Parke County
Northwestern Parke County — The stream merely trickles beneath Mill Creek Bridge. It’s just a few inches deep, but the water keeps moving.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute native Tommy John belongs in Cooperstown for pitching like a Hall of Famer
Few players in history left a greater impact on baseball than Tommy John.
And he did so through his performance on the field.
MARK BENNETT: Remotely confused
“Must See TV,” where have you gone?
MARK BENNETT: Popularity Contest: Congress does little to improve its standing with Americans
The members of Congress ardently resisting the Affordable Care Act emphasize its unpopularity.
MARK BENNETT: ‘The voice of the Democratic Party’
The ad stands as a campaign classic. Its scenario is part of history. Its narrator would be familiar to millions of Americans, yet anonymous, too.
MARK BENNETT: Transparency in public decision-making includes sincerely listening to the people
Transparency isn’t universally accepted in public entities.
MARK BENNETT: This Little Light: Remote chapel keeps a light shining on story of Flight 93
Father Al explained the meaning of the lamp. He asked me to light it.
The reverence in his voice offset the raspiness, left by his latest battle with cancer. Clearly, he saw this place as special.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections on the Wabash
The series “500 Miles of Wabash” wrapped up last Sunday after a five-week run. Readers offered some enlightening insights, memories and photographs as the series unfolded.
MARK BENNETT: Current Information: Put your Wabash knowledge to the test … or quiz
Just for fun, ponder a few questions concerning the large waterway flowing through Indiana and Terre Haute, as the Tribune-Star’s series, “500 Miles of Wabash” concludes in today’s editions. Those who’ve followed the five-part series of stories, photographs and videos about people and communities uniquely embracing the Wabash River may have a head start. If you’re just catching up, check them out in the online editions at www.tribstar.com.
- Answers to the Wabash River Quiz
MARK BENNETT: Pedestrian paths across the Wabash few, so far, but appreciated
The future tends to sneak up on you. Planning for it offers no guarantees, but it helps.
MARK BENNETT: Questions of fairness, impartiality, public trust legitimate in wake of school rating controversy
The discovery of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — weakens trust. The acceptance of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — erases trust. Indiana needs to draw a clear line between the former and the latter, and not cross it.
MARK BENNETT: Living downstream: From source, Wabash bears mark of mankind mile after mile
Something was missing. I’d never visited this spot before, but the view looked familiar. I’ve walked the banks of the Wabash River and its tributaries countless times, catching crawdads and skipping rocks in Honey Creek as a kid. On the other side of the state, where the Wabash crosses from Ohio into Indiana, trees arched over the water as it ran under a bridge on a quiet country road. It looked like western Indiana, except for one absent element. Litter.
MARK BENNETT: We are Hauteans (ho-shuns)
I fielded an hilariously disturbing question recently. A friend asked if the word “Hautean” is meant to be a derogatory label.
- More Mark Bennett Opinion Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river