By Ron VandenBoom
Saturday, May 6, was a red letter day in the VandenBoom household and I can't help sing its praises.
It was the culmination of five years worth of hard work, diligent effort, and unceasing sacrifice. It was a time of pomp and circumstance and a once in a lifetime opportunity to say "job well done" and "hip hip hurrah" to the woman I love most my wife Debe.
She was only one of almost 400 graduates that crossed the stage that morning during the MSU-Northern graduation ceremony, but to me she was the only one that mattered.
A mature woman of well let's suffice it to say over 18 she receive her bachelor's degree in business and her bachelor's degree in social science.
I felt a great deal of pride in this woman that only five years earlier wallowed in self-doubt and expressed nothing but fear and trepidation over starting school.
"You know you're going to have to help me with this," I remember her saying, after reminding me of her several early failures in college.
Well help I did. I spent many hours helping with papers and editing things she wrote. I also helped to answer many of her questions especially those dealing with history, economics, or philosophy.
But as time went by the questions grew fewer and she got a little better at writing papers. You could actually see her confidence grow.
Looking back, I realize this story is not unique. I was not the only one attending the ceremony that had a right to be proud. Other relatives of other graduates were also looking for that one face among many that belonged to a loved one. Other relatives had seen changes in their wives or children too.
Some had seen their children mature, acquire knowledge, and accept responsibility that four years earlier didn't exist. Others had seen wives, fathers, and even grandmothers accomplish a lifetime dream or train for new careers, or add to their existing education.
As a new crop of seniors prepare for graduation from Havre High School this coming Sunday, I'm sure another batch of relatives will bristle with pride as this first major hurdle in a lifetime of learning is crossed.
Today in Montana we are producing some of the best trained and most highly intelligent graduates anywhere in the country.
The most intelligent and best trained being my wife.
Sorry folks she made me say that.
But the real question is what will these latest graduates do now? Will they, like so many before them, leave Montana to find employment elsewhere?
The unfortunate answer is all too often yes.
It is commonly acknowledged that many of Montana's finest will not be able to find acceptable employment here.
Therein lies the tragedy.
Montana's employment landscape has changed. Timber, mining, and even Montana's sacred cow agriculture, will not provide the kinds of jobs that give our graduates choice.
As Montana's employment picture continues to shift away from industry and more toward a service oriented economy, the state has failed miserably to attract new industries into the state. It has not failed to want them, it has only failed to provide a climate that will attract them.
Montana's pristine environment and our hard working and dependable work force cannot offset unfriendly property taxes, other negatives maintained by the state.
Large expensive economic development programs are also of questionable value unless linked to substantial changes in the tax structure and a massive reduction in government regulation and red tape.
It seems ludicrous to spend Montana tax dollars to educate a work force that has to leave the state to find employment.
I'm sure other states are grateful to us for all the free help they receive improving their own economies with the help of Montana graduates.