Some of you may have the chance to walk across stage, collect your diploma and pose for a photo. Maybe even say goodbye to your teachers and friends. Many of you may not be afforded this opportunity. In either case, this is for all of you.
“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”
– Winston Churchill
Through no fault of your own, you are graduating in the most uncertain of times. A time when hand shakes are forbidden and the term “social distancing” has become a part of the vocabulary in nearly every language, in every country and every continent.
You may be looking to your parents for answers to questions that, if I am being honest, we do not have answers to. This is uncharted territory for us all. Our parents have never been here, even our grandparents, with all of their experience and wisdom, would not be able to provide us with guidance. A collective pause button has been pressed on the world, as we know it, and no one knows when we will be able to hit play again.
What I do know is that with silence, comes reflection and while you are looking to the older generations for answers, we are all looking to you for hope.
Hope that, in this instance, your generation will open your eyes wider than they have ever been before. That you will not focus on the ever present chaos but use your lens to capture a glimpse of the kindness and compassion, the willingness to help, the ingenuity that surrounds you right now. That you will be able to extract the good in a heartbreaking situation.
Hope that you will ignore arguing politicians, finger pointing and misplaced anger and instead choose to observe the teachers finding a new way to inspire and reach you, car factories finding a way, overnight, to make medical supplies, small business owners continuing to pay their employees before themselves, the medical community working tireless hours to care for their patients.
Hope that you will be a generation of doers and not talkers. The ones ready to roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty. A generation of forward thinkers and problem solvers. Perspective can change a situation and a positive mindset will help you to overcome any problem. We are ready to see all of your grit and determination.
Hope that your generation will find a way to make sure this never happens again.
We know it is a lot to ask but we have faith in all your abilities.
We have faith that you will be able to forgive all of the debts owed to you, that you were never able to collect. The last walk down the halls, the last game on the field, the last dance, watching the prideful eyes from the audience as you walk across stage in your cap and gown and the goodbyes we never realized would not have a chance to leave your lips.
We have faith that you will continue to understand the importance of a firm hand shake and will not abandon it. That you will never forget the feeling of being unable to hug your grandparents and that you will begin to hug them more often and for a little longer. We have faith that you will never take for granted the ability to work, to sit down and enjoy a meal inside a restaurant, or a visit with a friend.
We are looking for you to unite us.
We want you to see “social distancing” as temporary, not a permanent solution. In fact, we hope you never social distance ever again. We hope you hug your children, hold the hand of a friend, and kiss your spouse more than any generation before you. If I can promise anything, it is that the world needs so much more of this.
We want you to show us that opinions are just that, opinions. They are not the guidelines to base friendships upon. They can vary and differ but not alter the bonds we have formed with people. We want you to always be willing to listen to anyone and not only find, but stand together on common ground.
And through all of this, we want you to remain humble. To show the world what your generation will be remembered for, not tell us. No personal documentation, no boasting. Leave it for the history books because remember, a lion doesn’t need to tell everyone he is a lion.
Again, we know it is a lot to ask.
And in that moment, when our paths cross, we will look you in the eye and extend our arm for a hand shake but I have a feeling that you will say you’re welcome by wrapping your arms around us and holding us a little tighter.