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U.S. Sen. Al Franken offers advice for college graduates

WILLMAR -- When Sen. Al Franken speaks at college commencements, he urges graduates to hug their parents, "a lot."

Franken stopped in Willmar on Saturday on his way to deliver the commencement address at the University of Minnesota Morris.

"I'm going to start off by congratulating the parents, because the parents get ignored sometimes in these things," he said. "As a parent who's watched two of my children graduate from college, I know it's an enormous day for them, too."

Franken said he usually speaks at a couple commencements a year. "It's a nice thing, because everybody's happy," he said.

Franken said he planned to talk about the Morris campus.

"It's such a special place," he said, and he brags about it in Washington, D.C. "They have done incredible things, become an incredibly green campus."

His commencement speeches don't contain a lot of platitudes, he said, but he does offer a little advice.

"I tell them there are some of you who have a plan of what to do with your life and everything is going to work exactly the way you thought it would, and I congratulate both of you," he said.

"For everyone else, there are going to be things that happen that aren't according to plan. ... Success may not come the way you thought it would or it may not be what you thought it was."

When it comes to finding jobs, these graduates will be moving out into a better environment than several years ago, he said.

He doesn't give graduates specific advice about looking for jobs, he said, but he did share some of his thoughts on Saturday.

Depending on their interests, he said, people graduating now are likely to have multiple careers in their working lives.

"You have to work hard and believe in yourself and make a commitment," he said, and it's important to be able to work in a team. Employers, including manufacturers, tell him they are looking for people who can work well with others and are capable of creativity and critical thinking.

"We have skills gaps in lots of industries in our state, ... because people don't have requisite skills," he said.

Something else that's important -- a strong work ethic, Franken said. Young people who went to college while working 30 hours or more a week have that already, he added. "I don't think that's any way to go through college, but the kids coming through that have a tremendous work ethic."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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