I am watching the graduation ceremony from my home, it’s live streaming on community television. This was definitely not how any of us thought the school year would end.
But at least…
It’s been a season full of “at least’s”.
At least they got to have a ceremony, at least they got to graduate together on the field, with family in the stands. At least they got to personally pick up their diplomas in front of everyone.
At least this pandemic happened at the end of winter for us, so we can enjoy being outside, socially distanced, in nice weather.
At least we can still gather outside.
At least we had a home to gather inside.
At least we had internet so we could still connect with each other.
At least we could still get food at the grocery store.
At least we could still order take-out from local restaurants.
At least we have neighbors and dogs to walk.
I watch the Class of 2020 walk off the field, diplomas in hand, tassels flipped, to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.” I start to cry. Not because my kid is graduating (she isn’t), but for a bunch of reasons. I cry because I want more for these kids than a season full of “at leasts.”
I cry because I selfishly want more for my middle child’s senior year, which is supposed to start in September. I want her to have the things they couldn’t have this year: a spring musical, a prom, a spring concert, senior week activities. I want classroom collaborations and lunch in the cafeteria all year for her. I want her to have a graduation where she can freely hug her friends and hold their hands and sing with them, not constantly six feet apart.
I cry because I want things to be better- for all of us.
To the Class of 2020, even to the recent graduates of 2019 and earlier, to 2021 and beyond- we need you. We need your passion, your drive and your heart. We need you because a lot of my generation has failed you. We’ve failed you with our apathy. We were not the generation of protesting or social activism. Our society is broken, and hurting. People are broken, and hurting. And we’ve just rolled along thinking that there were other people who would care enough to make things better, to change things.
We were wrong. We are wrong.
Many in the generations before us have failed you. They helped perseverate an antiquated system that allows for people to continually be treated differently- because of how much money they make, because of where they live, because of what they look like, because they speak with an accent, because of whom they love, because of what they believe in, or don’t believe in. They supported a system that told them we had infinite resources and we could be infinite consumers and that our planet would take care of itself.
They were wrong. They are wrong.
Our schools continue to teach one narrow version of our history, as if the rest of the stories and voices don’t really matter. When did we decide so many stories aren’t important? Who decided it? Why did we just keep going with it? Clearly we need a kick in the ass to help broaden the narrative.
To the graduates, I challenge you. Listen to someone who believes differently than you. Have the uncomfortable conversations. Embrace someone who looks different than you. Be the example we need to see. Be the example we should follow. If you have to shame us into it, then so be it.
Keep showing up and standing up and speaking up. Your voice matters, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Your voice is never too small unless you don’t use it.
Be the change-makers. Inspire more change-makers. We need you, so desperately.
Vote. The world cannot afford to carry the weight of our apathy any longer.
I am sorry we are not doing a better job. I am sorry we are leaving you with such a mess. You deserve better. We all deserve better.
Don’t stop believing.