Dear John David and CHS Class of 2020,
I have a confession to make.
I tried so hard to think of your day like any other ordinary graduation day I might have missed the opportunity to embrace how truly extraordinary you are.
When you marched into the Childersburg High School arena wearing a mask with your royal blue cap and gown last Thursday, I realized something about historic moments. They never tell the whole story.
While history might remember the Class of 2020 as the class behind the mask, I will never forget the part of the story I observed. Watching the end to your senior year from the front row, I’ve observed the three additional parts of the story I want to share. While I will remember the mask, the parts of your story I will never forget are your humbleness, your humor, and your hope.
It boggles the mind to deeply contemplate what you have just experienced. You must be humored by those who describe pre-Covid events as unique, unbelievable, and unprecedented. You have every reason to reject the hyperbole and drama that seems to entertain modern society. This experience was anything but that for you. Once coming face-to-face with the cold meaning of unique, unbelievable, and unprecedented, life changes. For you, it became a moment of maturation.
I listened to you and your classmates discuss the plans being made for your class in response to the crisis. When someone wondered aloud about adults who vehemently disagree with the plans, another classmate said, “Nobody’s got time for that.” What a mature perspective. You’ve stayed above the fray. You’ve remained positive and solutions-oriented. You really didn’t surrender the time you had left in high school for more drama.
Difficult experiences don’t always humble people. You allowed the early challenge of your life to humble you. That is part of the story worth remembering.
You and your classmates have never struggled to keep humor alive, so it’s not surprising that you ended your senior year with extra doses. Laughing, smiling, and having fun together, even when you had to be apart, just might have been the key to successfully navigating this time in your lives. I watched you figure out how to have fun while trying to remain as socially distant as possible. Frisbee golf, fishing, and video gaming using House Party worked really well. The Game of Thrones marathon, not so much. Having fun isn’t reserved just for kids. It’s an essential part of life for all of us. Finding humor in difficult situations can be the difference between surviving and thriving.
Hope came quickly. Your last official day of school was March 16. Once it was confirmed that you wouldn’t return to school, I wondered how long the devastation would keep you down. It turns out, not long. Within a week or two you were already moving on. I’ve never seen this before. You were walking two very distinct tracks at the same time — high school and the next step of your life. Normally, we have closure for one experience before moving on to the next. You moved on uncertain if you’d ever have the closure so many of us take for granted. That requires courage, fortitude, and a great deal of hope.
The hopefulness springing from you reminded me how much we all have to celebrate and look toward. One evening I remember turning off the news to simply listen to you and your friends. Struck by the difference in what was on television and what was going on with each of you, I had a moment of clarity. The best news story in America was happening in my living room. I didn’t need to turn on my television to know what was happening. I needed to tune in to the young adults sitting on my couch.
Right before my eyes is future of my country successfully navigating today’s challenge with the humbleness, humor, and hope that define a generation.
I believe that’s the part of the story that history should tell.
With all my love,