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I would like to use my column this week to address a special group of Nebraskans. Seniors in high schools and colleges across our state are taking the next step in their lives: they are graduating.

Each graduate has his or her own story. That is what has made their academic experiences so special. Their classes contain a unique collection of individuals, which has allowed them to learn not only from their teachers, but from their peers, as well. This fusion of backgrounds, cultures and environments helps to create something common among all of our students: a strength and resiliency they often did not realize they had.

Graduates, the knowledge and skill set you have obtained over the last years of study will contribute to making your lives, and the lives of those around you, better. Your success will undoubtedly create success in others.

As citizens of the greatest and freest nation in the world, you will be carrying a certain responsibility as you move into the next phase of your lives. Our country did not achieve its status accidentally, nor has our national exceptionalism endured as a happenstance of nature.

It has taken work, from one generation to the next. Your turn has arrived.

Your leadership will be needed to build better communities by promoting stronger families in both Nebraska and across our country. The best way to begin making the world a better place is by caring about others.

The task ahead is monumental. However, that job of building a better society is easier than you think. It takes effort, but it is also contagious. When others see leaders actively engaging in doing what is needed to help those around them, they cannot help but join in themselves.

Of course, no message to graduates can end without a word of advice, and here is mine: unplug and appreciate time with people. Your conversation with a neighbor is more beneficial than those 100 likes on Facebook. Do not let the concern you have about getting the perfect selfie distract you from seeing what is happening right in front of your eyes. Do not let technology’s ability to connect you digitally leave human decency by the wayside.

We all do not need to be rocket scientists, but we should all be thinkers. To that end, I encourage you to put down your phones and turn off the TV. Listen during these quiet moments of reflection, these hushed moments of grace. That is when you will hear your conscience. Trust it.

Each day presents opportunities for contemplation and reflection. For the rest of your life, use these moments to chart a path for reaching your goals and realizing your dreams. They will allow you to hone the skills you learned and let you master the craft of your choosing.

Whatever the next chapter brings, you will play a crucial role in shaping our nation's future. You are the ones who will continue to make our state and our country special places in this world.

Graduates, you are the pride of Nebraska. I wish you all the best and continued success in your futures. Congratulations.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer can be reached at 202-224-6551.


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