In June of 1983, I was one of the two student speakers at my high school graduation. I had practiced the speech in my government class a few days before, and friends told me that they were happy they could hear it in class. On graduation night, I struggled through tears as I read my speech, and it was hard to understand what I was saying! On that same night, my longtime crush kissed me on the lips! It was such a pleasant surprise! He said, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
It was like a teen movie.
My high school graduation was 37 years ago, but it seems like yesterday. It was a memorable moment for me. I don’t remember everything, but I remember the special moments of that night.
Now, it’s 2020, and some students will not experience the traditional sense of graduation. They have completed their studies: 12 years of school for the high school senior, and additional post-secondary work for students in college. What a journey!
I want to provide these seniors (whether high school or college) a few words of encouragement in a speech:
How are you going to inspire others? What will you do with your life to encourage those who decide that life doesn’t matter anymore? I am posing these questions to you because through the most uncertain time in the history of our world, a virus wreaked havoc among humans and devastated families across the globe.
You have a cap and gown hanging in your closet and a piece of paper with your name on it en route to you. You persevered! You did not give up. Although the school buildings were shut and closed, education was persistent. Your instructors became students again to educate you through the means of technology. Your teachers and instructors tore down walls and gained access to Zoom and Google Hangouts; they depended on video and audio components on their computers and laptops just so you can complete your goal.
You didn’t quit. You didn’t give up. Why? What made you want to finish? Is it because you could see beyond your future? You knew that a virus couldn’t stop you from finishing? Of course, that is what you were thinking! Of course, you have goals and dreams! Even with a menacing virus sweeping the world, you hunkered down and defended your right to an education. You didn’t quit.
Understandably, you’re upset that you cannot wear the flowing gown and the cap that represents your scholarly accomplishments; you cannot wear symbols of regalia that boast your high honors or series of degrees. You’re feeling slighted that you cannot walk across the stage and hear the applause and cheers from family and friends. It’s not fair. You’re right; it isn’t fair.
However, the world knows what you have done. The world sees you! You have the attention of everyone who knows that you will not be able to celebrate your success on a stage for an hour or two. But, Class of 2020, you have something that no other graduating class has; you have the attention of the world! You have giants in politics and entertainment, celebrating you and your success! You want your graduation to be unique? Oh, it is! You have national television show executives preempt programming to praise you! You have the former President of the United States, Barack Obama, addressing you! All of you!
So, put on your cap and gown! Walk outside of your home and yell, “I did it!” Celebrate with your friends and family! You did it! You continued and didn’t quit despite what was happening around you! That type of motivation should continue within you to move you to make life better! You are a part of history! No one will ever forget 2020!
In conclusion, I will ask the question again. How will you inspire others? What will you do in your life to encourage those who decide that life doesn’t matter anymore? You can begin by telling your story and fill in the blanks to what made you want to finish your education during the hardest time in this world.
Class of 2020, do what you can to make this world a better place. I know it’s a cliche phrase, but take it to heart. You beat the odds, and that means you can do more!
Thank you, and we love you!