This afternoon was scheduled to be the graduation ceremony at my local high school here in Northeast Pennsylvania. As such, I found it fitting that I would release this statement on what would be graduation day. However, fate dictates that we cannot celebrate your accomplishments on these annual terms. I am proud in how our local community has railed to the class’ side during these trying times. They will now get an observance of some regard as our local race track has offered to host a drive-through ceremony of sorts. I must admit, I am rather jealous of this setup in comparison to the normal style on the football field, but I also acknowledge that many people would prefer that ordeal instead. Regardless, I do have some words of optimism to share with you all on your special day.
I have heard the outcry of the graduating class across the region, and how they will never get to enjoy the typical procedure of senior prom, class day, graduation, and several other cherished gatherings. I am truly empathetic towards those seniors who are afflicted in this way, but encourage you all to keep your heads up high. You all have very promising futures ahead of you, and I hope that this disappointment doesn’t deter that potential from rising out of you all. I believe that this is a situation which we must use as a sense of motivation, not despair. You can now state that you obtained your diploma while the world was pressed by a pandemic. In the future, this moment will define you, regardless of how much you wish otherwise. It defines your character, your motivation, your inspiration, your sense of commitment, and could very well define your path forward. I hope that this event invigorates you all to work harder than ever and shows you that you all can overcome every challenge, however significant, you are pressed with. And to those who hear a new calling as a result of this crisis, I am sure you are not alone. All of those who enter the medical field as a result of this pandemic will undoubtedly come in with a chip on their shoulder, and I hope that each one of you find a sense of closure and also a sense of pride in your choice. That sentiment is applied to all work forces concurrently. You all have a future, which only YOU can shape, so go on and begin to sculpt it into your desired path. In 1917 and 1979, senior classes around the nation were uprooted to uphold their civic duty if in fact drafted into war. They also did not experience the typical ceremonies of transition from high school to adult life. They were catapulted into foreign places, both physically and emotionally. I hope that the class of 2020 can learn from generations prior and formulate their own, unique sense of closure while they still have the chance.
Seniors, make the most of your last summer with your classmates which you have grown to call your friends over the past thirteen years of schooling. This may be your last few months to create iconic moments with one another, so do not hesitate to embark on that opportunity. Yes, this summer will be much different from in years past. And yet, we must adapt to our new normal, and live our lives as much as we can in a safe, proactive manner. Do not live in fear, because as FDR said once, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” We do not need to fear this virus and let it dictate the terms upon which we live our life. We can very well adjust and do anything by adhering to guidelines which help prevent our chances of contracting the virus. If we simply follow the guidelines, we have no reason to personally fear this virus. Additionally, do not fear your future. You are in complete control of how your life will turn out. What you do from this point forward is crucial to your success. If you do nothing, then you should not anticipate becoming a billionaire in the next ten years. You must take action in life to set yourself up to find results which you can be proud of. The only person who is relevant to you is you when it comes to your decision on your path forward. Do what makes you satisfied with yourself. If fiscal prospects is the only statistic that you consider when forming your path, that is fine so long as it fulfills your all of your desires. If helping your community is most important to you, then set yourself up to find a role in the community which suffices your personal drive. Just remember the point in this lesson: you are the only person who is relevant when determining what matter most to you when finding your future career.
I hope this address finds you well, as always. Note that you will always find support within the communities which fostered you throughout your childhood. They care about your future, yes, but they care most about your well-being. Never mince that lesson. You– as a person– is more remarkable than anything that can be interpreted in you as a prospect. This is probably not the valedictorian speech you had dreamed of hearing on your graduation day, but I am nonetheless delighted and honored to provide some remarks which you can carry with you. It is not the words which you fantasize about, but the setting in which those words are being delivered. And yet, I envision this address sticking with you, even if only for a moment, because it epitomizes what it means to enter unfiltered life. You are adults now, and it this situation fully conveys what struggles accompany that transition into a new livelihood. You will make mistakes, and you can overcome them. We are all human beings, and all human beings are prone to miscalculations which land them into trouble from time and again. It is what you take away from these missteps that will make you into a more productive member of society. This lesson could very well be the most important one to take away from this piece.
Best of luck in your future undertakings,
– C. Lewis