Dear Class of 2020,
Well, we find ourselves at the end of another completely normal school year, where nothing significant, historic or unexpected happened whatsoever. So because of that lack of world events to talk about, I would like to share a few thoughts.
Class of 2020, we have grown up during an undeniably unique time in history. Born in the spectre of 9/11, instilled within us was an understanding that being within American borders did not necessarily mean safety from all harm from the more evil parts of human nature, an idea which would only be reinforced by the events that would follow.
Barely 6 years old, we watched as the nation descended into economic recession as a result of the greed and corruption of a few, and the lives of millions our age and our parents would be affected. In the next 12 years we saw seemingly endless cycles of school shootings, the decrease of democratic trends in governments around the world, increased racial tension and most recently a public health crisis which has tragically taken the lives of hundreds of thousands.
With all we have experienced in our 18 years of life so far, we would be justified in questioning if the world is a fundamentally good place. We would be justified in questioning if the world we live in for the rest of our lives will be marked by constant evil, and heartache, and strife, or if those moments will serve as merely occasional backsteps in a world more just, more kind, and more ideal. To put it simply, we would be justified in questioning if, against all odds, we still have the power to make the world as it should be.
I obviously do not speak for our generation, or even our graduating class, but I think it’s fair to say that we are tired. Tired of the incidents. Tired of the response. Tired of the adults in the room being completely inept. Tired of our almost routine reaction of social media.
And yet, I maintain hope. I maintain hope chiefly because we simply cannot afford to be cynical, not here, not now. But I also maintain hope because along with all the pain we have seen, there is a parallel story to our lives so far.
Women finding the courage to say “Me too” and breaking the culture of silence. People being allowed to marry whoever they want, because love is love. A skinny kid with a funny name claiming the highest office in the land.
These positive forces are just as strong if not stronger than those which have bred cynicism among us. Despite all the negatives, all the tragedies, the world is for so many people a better place than it was when we were born.
So, what to do now? We face the big questions.
Will our change come from the inside or the outside of institutions? Do we want to lead progress, or support it? What do we even want to do with our lives?
These are not questions we will have answered when we get to college, or even when we finish it. They are scary questions to answer, requiring real courage and self-reflection to deal with. In fact, we’ll likely wrestle with them for the rest of our lives, but even in attempting to answer them, we are taking the first step towards meaningful change.
I think I can say unequivocally that fear will not define this class. It will not define our future, and it will not define this generation. Fear is always with us, letting it define us is like being frightened of our own shadows. We must carry our fears, carry our pain, and march towards progress nonetheless.
To answer a question I brought up earlier, I do not think any one of us in this class can make the world as it should be. But in at least one small way in our lives, we can help shape it.
Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” It’s on us now to help bend it.
Been a pleasure to know you all,