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Lynn Hummel: A salute to the un-cool graduate

Here we are again — the graduation season. This is when the spotlight shines one more time on the honor students and the cool kids who have been the bright faces in their class. They’ve been active, they’ve been conspicuous, they have succeeded and they have been cool. They’ve earned their recognition and we salute them.

But in the class of 2014, as in all graduating classes, there in the shadows, are the un-cool. I’ll call them the invisible members of the class. They’re there, but we seldom see them.

If you’re over 19, you’ve probably never heard of Sonny Moore, or Skrillex as he calls himself. Skrillex is a musician who makes music most of us would consider obnoxious with sounds that are explosive and loud, like “imperial storm troopers firing blaster rifles over the din of convulsing drumbeats and bass lines that feel like a pit-of-your stomach free fall from the top floor of a skyscraper.”

The young man was often mocked for his bad skin, short stature, fat-rimmed glasses and strange musical preferences. But he’s become big stuff. What drives him? He says, “I want to give back to those un-cool kids who are passionate and feel like they don’t have a place. That’s where I came from.”

Going back to the class of 2014, who are those un-cool kids? They’re probably not big sports stars, homecoming queens or singing leads in the musicals.

Quite likely they’re marching to the beat of different drummers. So much happens under the radar. There can be so many student interests that never get noticed except by a few: Science Club, Debate, Mock Trial, Humane Society, Math Club, Spanish Club, Future Farmers, Future Business, Mechanics Club, Robotics Team or Computer Club. Most of the participants would be considered un-cool. Many of them would be called “nerds.”

Some years ago, there was a computer nerd who, when he was in high school, hacked the school computer and got himself assigned to classrooms with the “most interesting” girls. He had funny glasses and hair that resisted good haircuts. Awkward looking, he wasn’t one of the cool guys. He started college and dropped out but kept working with computers.

To make a long story short, his name was Bill Gates. He was the founder of Microsoft and as of April, was rated the wealthiest person in the world; he is now a world-class philanthropist as well. Gates has said, “Be kind to nerds — you may end up working for one.”

To be fair, Bill Gates is hardly typical. But his story has a point. The point of the story is that we need un-cool kids with their special under-the-radar interests. Whether they are invisible or not, these “nerds” are going to be looking through microscopes and finding cures we’ve been praying for, they’re going to invent devices that will save lives, they’re going to keep our machinery running, they’re going to fabricate robots that save backbreaking labor, they’re going to forge new frontiers in photography, art, mathematics, agriculture, education and literature. But they will have more impact than visibility. We need them. There is vast potential there that we haven’t recognized. And maybe some of them will even be pioneers in breaking some of the barriers that cause poverty, injustice and war.

And why? Because some of these passionate, un-cool kids who now feel like they don’t have a place, will care about finding a place or making a place for somebody else who needs one.

Happy graduation. Keep listening to those drummers.