This time of year, high schools large and small feature commencement speakers with lofty calls for graduates to go forth into a world their parents have left a mess and that needs their young vision and courage to improve.
For many graduating seniors, however, four years of college are disappointingly beyond reach because of escalating tuition costs. Some even lack the interest or discipline to handle higher education's curricula and four years in the classroom, and are impatient to work and begin families.
However, the world's genuine problems increasingly are more practical than theoretical or academic and don't necessarily require advanced college degrees, as desirable as those cherished sheepskins are.
Instead, genuinely noble work on urgent problems at home and abroad can be undertaken without being elected to Congress, serving as diplomats or becoming titans of high finance.
Health care, especially in rural areas of America and distant corners of the Third World, require nurses, paramedics and technicians who can administer basic care, operate diagnostic equipment and teach nutrition.
Craftsmen who can repair and maintain America's aging public facilities—schools, dams, roads, water works and the like—will find ready careers and community appreciation for their efforts.
America's growing senior citizen population in full-care retirement and health facilities requires young people willing to comfort and care for oldsters who have become dependent on others.
The urban homeless are in great need. So, too, is the environment, which needs workers who can protect public lands and wildlife and fight fires. Ditto for agriculture, the ultimate necessity.
Building trades that create shelter and structures for commerce always need skilled craftsmen. The emerging demand for wind and solar power needs craftsmen whose handiwork will provide new alternative energy sources.
For the adventurous, the Peace Corps beckons those who want to improve the lot of peoples abroad in challenging surroundings. Or, a stint or full career in the military is a route to new skills and honorable service to country.
For the truly ambitious grad lacking the wherewithal for college immediately after high school, adult education courses provide working Americans a way to achieve college degrees later in life.
The annals of public service and high achievement are filled with the names of Americans who answered the call to improve their society with vision, sweat of brow and keen ideas—and without an advanced degree.