Right now, there is an overshadowing of what should normally be one of the most universal and collective celebratory seasons in the entire year. It is the academic graduation season. Every year in May and June students, families and communities gather in large numbers to celebrate, congratulate and commemorate the accomplishments of our graduates from elementary schools to vocational schools, to universities all over the country. We take the time to acknowledge the hard work and sacrifices made in the name of higher education while celebrating our newest teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, artists and other professionals of all types and disciplines. It is a wonderous time and one in which both students and their families can be proud. People travel great distances, and many have overcome great challenges and obstacles to finally arrive at this moment in time. And yet, for the Class of 2020 there is the unprecedented challenge of a global pandemic overshadowing their moment of achievement and adulation.
This year, the Class of 2020 will not have the ceremony and celebration that they have been envisioning for months, years and decades. They will not have the graduation gatherings that they most certainly have earned because our national focus is on how to control and contain a virus that is highly contagious and extremely deadly? We are in the middle of an historic loss of life due to COVID-19 that has spread across the national and global landscape with no end in sight. There have been almost 100,000 lives lost in the United States alone to date and there could very well be 100,000 more before we have gotten this pandemic under control. And so, The Class of 2020 will be an historic graduating class. They will mark the monumental accomplishment of their graduation in conjunction with a generational historic and calamitous event. The year 2020 will have a heavy and indelible mark on both American history and human history. Therefore, this class has been thrust into a destiny that they did not choose but has indeed chosen them.
Due to the extraordinary times we are now a part of, we all have had to immediately pivot and make changes to the ways in which we live, interact and carry on with our lives. The impact of these changes has been most evident in how our young people, students and graduates have had to amend and adjust their lives and their expectations. Although it has been challenging, it has also been amazing to see this generation of tech savvy, socially agile and politically intuitive people make the adjustment with style, grace and innovation. They have taken on the mantle that has been thrust upon them and have literally made the best of a horrifically bad situation.
We have gone online to celebrate. We have held “drive by” graduations and graduation parties. There have been virtual proms and yearbook signings, Tik Tok valedictorian and salutatorian speeches. Entire Facebook and YouTube pages have been dedicated to graduates and to the teaching professionals who have supported them. As a nation, we have been to virtual celebrations of an entire country’s graduating class.
The Class of 2020 is a very special group. They have been exceptional in the ways in which they have commemorated the rites of passage that cannot be delayed by time or even a pandemic. No matter what, this new group of graduates recognized that they had to find ways to celebrate and commemorate what is a fundamental and recognized crossing over. They did not focus on what could not be done in the most challenging of times, but with graciousness and character, they have transcended the circumstances they have encountered and, in the process, Lifted us ALL. They brought us together as a family, a people, and a nation to DO what we are able to do despite the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
We can and MUST Celebrate them! This Class of 2020 is a great class. They are a specifically chosen group of citizens that we cannot ignore, and they will undoubtedly lead us to higher ground and better days ahead.