RICHARDSON: Ahmed speaks

May 4, 2014 

For the purposes of this column, I’m no longer Charles E. Richardson, the greatest columnist to ever walk the Earth, but Ahmed, the soothsayer with a blinking sign in the front yard of my rundown house over on Grinch Place. I do palm readings on the side when I’m not advising police around the country where they can find dead bodies.

I was given an assignment last week: Predict where the 174 Golden Eagle nominees would end up in life. In full disclosure, I’ve worked with The Telegraph over the years as the official soothsayer, and my predictions have a 100 percent accuracy rate.

Needless to say, the 174 seniors from 22 Middle Georgia high schools -- public and private -- are the best of the best. As such, as I gaze into the crystal ball I just pulled out of the attic, I can divine where each will end up.

They all have certain traits. They’re smart, of course, but they’ve learned how to work it. The brain is like a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it becomes. While diddling around with video games may sweat the brain a bit, it’s hardly straining. But working through advanced math problems really stretches it. While a video game may give the brain some gratification when it reaches the next level, learning a new phrase and carrying on a conversation in a foreign language earns a lot more than points, and you don’t need the newest version of an Xbox to get that high. The $400 would be better spent on a math tutor.

These Golden Eagle nominees come from all sorts of backgrounds. There are a few that could be classified as having it all together, but most come from modest means. These nominees aren’t dorks. They’re everyday teenagers going through a difficult time in life. They’re figuring it out. These kids hang out, too, just with other smart kids.

They’re all over the place in their interests, but they multitask like no other generation. All have at least one dedicated parent; most have two, who have no patience for mediocrity. Family is very important and, as I looked around the Grand Opera House, these nominees had plenty of support, from extended family to teachers and friends. So what’s special about these young people? Something along the way pricked their interest, and they’ve found something to be passionate about. And one more thing: Their parents didn’t put limits on how high they could fly.

According to my crystal ball, for the first time in the 37-year history of the Golden Eagles (winners in 12 categories received $1,000 each, and $300 each for honorable mention), there were two students who aced the SAT. Yep, perfect scores. Added to that pair was a Gates Millennium Scholar, the fourth from his school in two years. Somebody at Central High School is doing something right.

I predict these students will lead productive, happy lives. They will accomplish great things. They will contribute to their communities, and while it’s way too soon to think about this, they will find similarly educated mates and have children who will excel in school and life, too.

Just as we can predict that students who haven’t mastered reading by the third grade will have a tough time, and the odds are stacked against them even at that young age, we can forecast that those who study hard and find their passion will lead successful lives. Certainly there are no guarantees, but odds are heavily in their favor -- a much better bet than the Georgia Lottery. They are not depending on luck to get ahead. They’re creating their own good fortune with hard work and dedication and plenty of brain exercise.

Now they’re soon off to the next stage in life. They’re headed to the best universities this country has to offer. They will return -- probably not to Middle Georgia -- as scientists, engineers, musicians, doctors and teachers. Some will go off to do great things we will read about. Others will lead quiet, happy lives doing what they are passionate about.

Remember, Ahmed has never been wrong.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at crichardson@macon.com. Tweet@crichard1020.

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