Eye On Illinois: 2022 graduates enter adulthood in an increasingly violent world

My oldest son graduates high school tonight, a significant milestone that began as a 3-year-old in Miss Jeremie’s class at Lincoln Elementary School in Ottawa.

He’s already started earning College of Lake County credit in computer information technology through the cooperative vocational/technical campus and will continue pursuing professional certifications in summer and fall terms while working an IT job on the side.

Those opening sentences might surprise many former teachers and aides, but the ones who knew him best along the way always came away with an understanding of his unrelenting determination.

I began writing these thoughts Tuesday afternoon, sandwiched between the evening debates of Republican gubernatorial candidates and the horrible news from Uvalde, Texas, of yet another mass school shooting.

My graduate was just a preschooler in February 2008 when this horror came to Northern Illinois University. He was in second grade during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. He was in eighth grade for Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Santa Fe high schools. His brothers are finishing second, fifth and eighth grades and I shudder to think the tragedies possible before the youngest collects his diploma in a decade.

While I compiled that list, some Republicans paused from debate prep to issue statements about Uvalde. Both Xenia state Sen. Darren Bailey and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin used the word “senseless,” one of many adjectives that surely applies, insofar as there can be no justification for any such spree. But as a 42-year-old American it’s impossible to be surprised at news of a school shooting. Or one at a grocery store. Or a mall. A post office. A nightclub. A concert.

Parents face two choices: keep children home under all circumstances, or selfishly hope the odds will be in our favor. More than 3 million teenagers graduate from public high schools every year in this country, and the vast majority have never been in physical danger during their K-12 careers.

My parents chose the latter, letting me finish third grade in May 1988 a few weeks after a mass shooting at Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, about 20 miles from my own elementary school. They chose the same for my younger siblings, nearly done with junior high during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

Gun control wasn’t a major topic of Tuesday’s debates. Opposing stricter regulations is an essential plank of conservative platforms, as is decrying violence in Chicago streets and blaming incumbents for insufficiently imprisoning people. This paragraph will prompt some readers to type angry notes, then nothing will change and eventually we’ll do it all again.

Congratulations to everyone in the Class of 2022. Thank you for joining us in adulthood. I’m sorry we can’t make getting here any easier.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at