A commencement address to the Class of 2020 (and to the public at large, given that we’re all learning some lessons during these strange times): First off, congratulations are in order. Not only have you successfully completed an important phase of your life, you’ve accomplished that under some unusual – and often trying – circumstances.
I suspect that, right now, you’re feeling a bit gypped. You headed to spring break expecting to flourish in whatever you conceived respite to be, but even in your wildest dreams you couldn’t have expected the kind of departure from “normal” that emerged pretty much the day you walked off campus.
While the initial moments of the extended vacation were probably a bit refreshing – it isn’t often that the state not only lets you play hooky but requires it – the “Groundhog Day”-like extended vacation began to grow weary after the newness wore off.
You might not have missed calculus, but you sure missed Cal … or Traci … or Aaron … or Hannah. Heck, you probably even missed Mr. (fill in the blank with the name of your most nondescript teacher), if just because his class meant you got to go to class. For 13 years, going to class has been what you do, and not doing it left a void like few you’ve ever experienced.
Then you missed your prom, and the magnitude of all the missing really hit home.
Meanwhile, a lot of people, not the least of whom rent tuxedos and sell fancy dresses or pricey corsages and take portraits, also became part of a collective missing that you might not have even thought about. And Mom and Dad, for sure, shared in your misfortune, especially if you’re the first of their offspring to graduate.
Indeed, you and yours – even some of the yours you don’t know – missed out on a lot of the things you were expecting to enjoy during your final term as a high school student.
While the current view seems grim, the retrospective one won’t, so much. You don’t learn this lesson in a classroom, but every experience evolves into a story. And your story will include memories of school leaders parading down your street just to laud you, often bearing gifts in the process. You’ll share about the time you were “adopted” online by some total stranger who became a dear friend simply because he/she tried to make things better. Some of you will get to talk about the time you – and not Dak Prescott – were the focus of attention at AT&T Stadium. All of you will, in a sense, be immortalized simply because you are members of the graduating “Class of Coronavirus.”
While you don’t understand this now, you will eventually realize that in all of the missing, you actually found something: A place in history. Some day, the members of a senior class will be studying you. How many grads can say that?