To the class of 2020, I tip my “mortarboard cap” to you. You have weathered an extremely challenging second half of your senior year. So many things that a high school senior looks forward to were, one by one, taken away from you. Events like Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival, spring plays, spring sports, prom and even your graduation ceremony.
My granddaughter, Gina, graduated from South River High School this year. She’s the first of my grandchildren to graduate. I wasn’t able to be there to see her “commencement” due to the restrictions placed on the appointed ceremony. I understand firsthand the changes to the graduation ceremonies. There was no “pomp and circumstance.”
You might not have known it at the time, but COVID-19 was actually building your character as you dealt with every obstacle that was put in front of you. You are the true survivors of the past few months, and while these wounds are still fresh, one day you will talk about these days with wisdom gained from living through them.
History is remembered when big events happen. You are living through a big event. The world has changed, and history will be written as before the pandemic and after the pandemic. You, the class of 2020, will be entering the “after the pandemic world.” What this new world looks like is yet to be seen. But I am sure that the class of 2020 will charge into this new world with the energy and strength gained by what you have experienced during the spring of your senior year.
I’ve watched what many of you have already done in your time in high school. You have organized and participated in marches for social justice. You've worked to end the stigma around mental illness after seeing it take your loved ones. The entire community is learning how to ask for help because of you, and because of you, the entire community is learning it is not alone. You are such strong individuals, and I know the world you enter into will be stronger because of your many and varied abilities.
When I graduated from high school, the peace-and-love generation of the ‘60s was going strong. Almost 50 years later, there is another movement, a civil movement to respect and to love Black lives. You are shouldering the movement that my generation started but just didn’t quite get right. I have so much faith that you will get it right this time.
If I could put a message on the top of a mortarboard cap, my message to you would say, “You’ve Got This!” Take the energy that has been cooped up for the past three months and hit your next stage of life with ambition to make a difference.