For the Class of 2020

For the past five years, I've written graduation speeches for my eighth graders. This year's graduation speech was a little different, mostly because the end of this year has been so different. But here it is, my model for my current eighth graders. It has me thinking so much about all of the graduates and all of the graduations worthy of celebrating. So before Obama and all of the other amazing graduation speeches get made, here is my offering. 

Class of 2020 Graduates,

You made it. You are here, but I’m not ready to let you go. 

You didn’t get all of the moments this year had in store for you; didn’t get all of those lasts: last Academy Day, last projects, last dances, last field day, last classes, last days of school. Well, we had these lasts, but we didn’t know them while we had them.

Instead, we’ve had something else. We traded in classrooms for Zooms. We learned how to connect with one another through a screen instead of face-to-face. We searched for the motivation to get up every morning to head to school without even opening the front door, and to complete assignments that you might learn from but that couldn’t hurt your grade if you chose not to complete them. You had to get used to so much change so quickly.

A graduation celebration 1992 of four racially ambiguous kids
High School Graduation: June, 1992. 
Greek philosopher Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

You are here, and you have helped build something new.

It isn’t what we expected, but it is ours and we are here to celebrate because you have earned it. You put in two and a half long years on campus: days learning and growing, struggling with teachers and classmates, watching the clock and waiting for that 3:00 bell. And each and every one of those days in all of those classes count.

And now you’ve survived something new. For twelve weeks you have shown up in so many new ways. You found your way onto on screens and into chats. You turned in assignments, checked in with friends and teachers in new ways and adjusted to new ways of being at home with your families.

You read the news and felt anger, anxiety, fear, and loss. You witnessed tragedy from near and far. You worried about friends and classmates and endured constant change and uncertainty.

American author Maya Angelou says, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

You have done this. You have taken this unprecedented situation and learned about yourself as people and as students. You’ve learned what to do with hours upon hours upon hours at home. You have grown up in these few months and learned more than we could measure inside the halls of our schools or the walls of our classrooms.

Our school’s namesake, Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “The way to mend the bad world is to create the right world” and you, the class of 2020 are truly making your own path. You are carving out new experiences and are already shaping a new, post COVID-19 world.

I might not be ready to let you go, but you are ready. You know how quickly everything can change and your adaptability during this time has inspired me. You have brought me hope. So thank you. Thank you for sharing so many of these long-short days, your thoughts and dreams of what tomorrow might bring. 

You have helped mend the bad, and I cannot wait to see the new, right world you help create.

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