Op-Ed

An open letter to the graduating class of 2020

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Seniors of the class of 2020,

“This is our time. Seize the moment. ‘Fear not the unknown. It is a sea of possibilities. —Tom Althouse.’” All of these are quotes and phrases familiar to almost all graduating classes across the country. But fear of the unknown is all many of you are facing today. The unknown about whether you will get to walk across that stage at graduation, with your parents and family looking on, celebrating your accomplishments. Fear that those moments you spent with your friends on that last day of school before all schools closed will be the last memories you get to make with those friends before you graduate. Regret that you did not get to dance with your high school love, that you spent all that time looking for the perfect dress or tux to impress them with for prom. Anxiety about how those possible last grades might affect your transcript or how you might not be able to take that AP or IB exam for that honors class that you studied so hard for.

You have the right to feel uncertain, fearful and anxious. You are allowed to feel like fate has wronged you. But you are a generation of fighters. You are the generation that came after the uncertainty of the attacks of 9-11. Many of you might possibly be the result of the togetherness we as a nation felt when we rose from those terrible attacks. You have been growing and thriving despite having wars being fought your entire life, because we as country have ensured that you were sheltered in safety so that you can achieve this.

Your parents have watched and reveled in each milestone you have accomplished: your first steps, first words, promotion to first grade, riding a bike, promotion from eighth grade, your driver’s license and ultimately your graduation from high school. No one and nothing can take that accomplishment away from you. You have not only achieved but excelled in the face of uncertainty. This is just another obstacle which you will overcome.

All of your teachers, from kindergarten through your senior year, we have watched grow into the outstanding young men and women that you are today. We take pride in the fact that we have had at least a small part to play in your accomplishments. We have seen you struggle, we have held your hand, taught you step by step until you understood, been a shoulder for you to cry on, and hopefully occasionally told you just how proud we are of you and your accomplishments. Hopefully you know that all of your teachers feel your pain, and that we also feel cheated not able to divulge that last bit of knowledge we have to share with you before you leave the shelter of our classrooms.

You have had to overcome obstacles that only people from the Greatest Generation have had to experience like you. Shortages (like how that economics term just works in here perfectly?) of toilet paper, bottled water, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes. Words like “hoarding,” “social distancing” and “global pandemic” becoming a part of your everyday language. These words that no one could have fathomed might possibly mean the end of your 13-year journey to graduation from high school.

You have weathered this storm. You are a survivor. Be proud of your accomplishments and do not dwell on the disappointment or fear that you might not get to walk across that stage at the end of the year. You will be celebrated. It may be only with your immediate family members, or it might be at a later date. But you deserve your recognition. Do not lose faith. Whether we come back for a short time before you graduate or if your year is finished, your parents and teachers are there for you.

So congratulations, class of 2020. You did it! As Langston Hughes wrote in his poem “Dreams”:

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.

Karleen Kurys teaches government/economics and U.S. history at Tracy High School. She has a daughter who is a high school senior. Comments can be sent to tpletters@tracypress.com.

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