Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
Dear Class of 2020:
Hats off and Congratulations! You are the first graduates of the new decade. You’ve completed your requirements with challenges none of us could imagine. It’s not the graduation you planned, nor is it the one we wanted for you. The real world arrived harshly and without apology as your accomplishments and celebrations were derailed by Coronavirus Chaos.
You deserve a last dance, the long walk and your diploma physically handed to you. You earned the hugs and high fives of those whose love and support brought you to this place. Instead, your commencement was hijacked by a virus fierce enough to shut down the world.
Your final year of high school or college was not supposed to end this way. The loss of this milestone is heart breaking, but nothing, not even a pandemic, can take away your achievements or diminish your light.
Class of 2020, we are so proud of you. Get ready to do great things!
The World Is Waiting For You
No pressure. I don’t want to imply the world is counting on you but—it kind of is. Class of 2020, you are the future. Despite your young age, we are depending on your passion for social justice and change. The careers you are building will add value and meaning to the world.
Graduation is a long-standing rite of passage into real life. Except it’s not real. This is not what you envisioned, but you are living through some history and have stories to tell. Write them down. Keep a journal and remind the world that you pushed boundaries and challenged norms.
Generation Z Has Arrived
You are never too young to change the world. The Class of 2020 is our Generation Z, follow-on to the Millennials. Born to Gen X parents, you grew up in a world defined by terrorist attacks, social media, racial and religious conflicts, school shootings and political divisiveness.
You are a force to be reckoned with. Centennials (that’s you) make up 27%–or nearly one third—of the U.S. population. As the youngest and most ethnically diverse group in American history, you have the ability to define what happens next.
But the world you are entering is unrecognizable. Coronavirus created a new normal and pushed all of us into it. Since it arrived, more than 90,000 Americans have died, 33 million people filed for unemployment, and commerce is standing still .The world your graduation invited you to join is economically paralyzed. You are entering a job market more focused on laying off than hiring.
Many of your once-in-a-lifetime moments are gone. They were disrupted by a pandemic that forced everyone to step back and stay there. High school and college seniors were suddenly frozen in place, their plans suspended while awaiting the recovery and reboot of our country and the world. Except none of us is certain when or how that happens.
The Uninvited Guest
Graduations across the country found themselves with an uninvited guest. COVID-19 swept in with a vengeance and some unexpected life lessons:
Things don’t always turn out the way we expect them to.
We aren’t able to live life the way we want to right now. Instead, we’re stuck in a virtual world defined by social distancing, isolation, and quarantine. You did not let that stop you or slow you down!
You will be better equipped to handle change when life demands it.
It is unlikely that things you planned at the start of 2020 will remain by the end of the year. You are more prepared to take on the world than any other generation before you. This, more than anything else, will keep you resilient in tough times.
You know how to adapt.
You showed us how easy it is to bridge the physical and digital gap. A crisis we never saw coming turned your final semester of school into a never-ending Zoom call. Awards and celebrations were canceled and the long good-byes you counted on never happened. No matter—you found ways to connect, celebrate and share your achievements.
There is Work to be Done
Congratulations, Class of 2020. Carry these skills, lessons, disappointments, and celebrations as reminders of how strong you are in the face of adversity. This is not the year you envisioned but it will become a defining moment in your life.
Commencement means new beginning. For you, what that looks like is still unclear, but your ambition, optimism, and passion will guide you. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are counting on you to change the world. I believe you will do it.
Go into the world and do well.
But more importantly, go into the world and do good. ~ Minor Myers