This is when we’d usually be doing an editorial tied to commencement events at area high schools. We’d be planning for several busy weekends, trying to get to multiple ceremonies for photos celebrating the Class of 2020.
This year is, obviously, different. And it is unprecedented for modern education. While there have been pandemics before, the educational landscape in 1918-1919 was quite different from today.
This year’s seniors have, unquestionably, been given a bum deal. High school seniors graduate with the uncertainty of whether the colleges they intend to study at in the fall will be open, or whether it will be safe to live in dorms that bring together hundreds of students.
Graduating college seniors have their degrees, but little assurance of quickly finding work in an economy that has taken a faster, sharper nosedive than any within the history of modern economic measurements.
None of that devalues the work they have done, though. They have, in each instance, accomplished something real. They have reached a key milestone in life. That is cause to celebrate, even if the celebrations look different than what everyone expected when the semester began.
It’s tempting to say this is a preview of the hurdles they will overcome in the future. But that’s not right. This is, we hope, unique. If this is a preview rather than a near-term challenge, then the climb will be much steeper for all of us than expected.
What we do hope they take away from this are two key lessons. First, it’s doubtful that anyone is really ok with how things are turning out. This will leave a mark on everyone who lives through it. While the challenges will differ, it’s ok to not be ok sometimes. It’s normal to need to lean on family and friends at times, to borrow the strength of others when you don’t have it yourself. Just be sure to lend your strength to others when they need it, too.
The second is harder to see at the moment. But challenges can be overcome. It is possible to endure longer than you think you can, to struggle harder, and to come out a different person. Life is not always easy. It will not always be fair. When you are reminded of that fact — and you will be, repeatedly — remember that endurance has its own value.
For what it’s worth, we wish these May weekends were the mad scrambles from one event to another that they usually are for our newsroom. They’re exhausting, but they always pay off the investment with the joy of recording the triumph of seniors who have worked so hard.
This doesn’t look like a normal graduation season. Don’t let that fool you. The accomplishments of this year’s graduates are no less valuable for that, no less worthy of celebration and praise.
But you’ve still done it. You’ve still made it to the end of this chapter. The next one is uncertain, that is true. But you’ve already shown you can put in the work needed to succeed.
We wish the Class of 2020 luck. You’re due some of that.
Just remember that luck and hard work often go together.