Editorial: In difficult times, words of wisdom for the Class of 2020
By Richard Gaw
For every graduate, his or her commencement exercise serves as the skinny sliver of time between Closure and Beginning, the two-hour stopover between Yesterday and Tomorrow, all heightened by the pomp and circumstance ritual of music, graduation gowns and diplomas.
In retrospect, as the wave of a world-wide pandemic sweeps over Chester County and the world, such an event seems insignificant against our current backdrop, but what COVID-19 has done to these students is nothing short of an attempt to silence the dreams and expectations of thousands of 18-year-olds.
It picked on the wrong generation.
What this group of young adults has proven time and time again is that if you build a wall in front of them, they will leap over it. Give them a challenge, and they will crush it. Present them with seemingly insurmountable odds and they will respond by running faster, thinking harder, and doing it all while holding up each other.
The Chester County Press knows a lot of them. Over the past four years, we’ve spoken with them, covered their sports and their activities and seen them give selflessly to their communities. We believe that this is the generation that will ultimately save the world.
We acknowledge every graduate’s achievements and their aspirations for their future, and share just a few of the many words of hope that have been spoken of later to graduates all over the nation – by two athletes, a musician, a comedian, an iconoclast and a former President of the United States.
“I know first-hand the power of a movement led by and for the next generation. You are that next generation. Take the torch and leave your mark. Put your stake in the ground and build the future that you want and you believe in and fight like hell to do it.”
“Class of 2020, I know the last thing you want to hear right now is “stay home.” That’s not my message to you. My message is, stay close to home -- maybe not physically but in every other way possible. Pursue every ambition, go as far as you can possibly dream and be the first generation to embrace a new responsibility, a responsibility to rebuild your community.
“Class of 2020, the world has changed. You will determine how we rebuild, and I ask that you make your community your priority.”
“We had to slow down to receive this amazing gift and blessing called more time. Time was flying, but not anymore. This is what was needed to prepare us for the future. This is prayers answered, but now we learn the hard way that we all are equal.”
Mary J. Blige
“No one else defines you but you. Your perseverance and your tenacity is what people will remember. It’s not that you will fall down because we know everyone falls down, and it is how you get back up, and that you continue to get back up. What other people think of you is never as important as what you think of yourself.”
“The important thing to remember about career paths is that they don't have to last forever, and when I was in my 20s, I thought I'd always worked in software. I never saw myself working in philanthropy or on global health at all, let alone leaving behind my job at Microsoft to do it full-time. As you get older, your interests and your skills will evolve. My advice is to be open to change. Don’t be afraid to try something new.”
“If the world is going to get better it’s going to be up to you. With everything suddenly feeling like it’s up for grabs, this is your time to seize the initiative. Nobody can tell you anymore that you should be waiting your turn, nobody can tell you anymore that this is how it’s always been done. More than ever this is your moment, your generation’s world to shape.
“You’ve got more role models, more road maps, more resources than the civil rights generation did. You’ve got more tools, technology and talents than my generation did. No generation has been better positioned to be warriors for justice and remake the world.”